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Going to the dentist can be a nerve-wracking experience for many people. Whether it’s the sound of the drill or the fear of pain, dental anxiety is a common issue preventing people from getting the dental care they need.

Fortunately, several sedation options can help make your dental experience more comfortable and less stressful. Dental patients can choose to have sedation at the clinic or a facility offering all types of dental sedation where your treating dentist can perform surgery and other procedures.

This guide explores the different types of sedation and where you can receive them.

Who Is Dental Sedation For?

Dental sedation is a worthy option for anyone who experiences undue anxiety or fear when visiting the dentist. It also benefits patients with a low pain threshold, a sensitive gag reflex, or difficulty sitting still for extended periods. Additionally, sedation dentistry can be helpful for patients with special needs, such as those with physical or cognitive disabilities.

When Is Dental Sedation Necessary?

While dental sedation is not always necessary, certain procedures may require it. For example, sedation may be recommended for patients undergoing wisdom teeth removal, root canals, or dental implant procedures. These procedures can be more complex and may require more time in the dental chair, making sedation a valid option for ensuring patient comfort.

Sometimes, sedation alone may be sufficient to keep the patient relaxed and comfortable during the procedure. However, there are situations where local anaesthesia may still be used in combination with sedation to provide optimal pain control and ensure a pain-free experience for the patient. The decision to use local anaesthesia alongside sedation depends on the nature of the dental procedure, the patient’s preferences, and the dentist’s judgment.

Where To Receive Sedation

Sedation can be administered at the dental clinic or in a special facility like Nepean Dental Sedation, which specialises in providing sedation for patients with dental anxiety or special needs.

These facilities offer a range of sedation options, including nitrous oxide, oral sedation and IV sedation. This way, the patient is comfortable, pain-free, and stress-free throughout the procedures.

Only medical doctors with relevant training, general anaesthesiologists, and dentists authorised for conscious sedation by the Dental Board of Australia are qualified to administer IV sedation.

Types And Levels Of Sedation Nitrous Oxide

Minimal sedation, also known as anxiolysis, is the mildest form of sedation using nitrous oxide or a mild oral sedative. It’s mixed with oxygen and administered through a mask over the nose. Throughout the procedure, the dentist can adjust the nitrous oxide and oxygen level to titrate the extent of sedation.

It’s a safe and effective way to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation during dental procedures. This level of sedation is appropriate for patients with mild anxiety or simple procedures, such as teeth cleaning or cavity fillings. Nitrous oxide wears off quickly, so normal activities can be resumed immediately after your appointment.

Oral Sedation

Oral sedation involves taking a pill around 30 minutes before your appointment to help you relax. The medication for oral sedation can vary, but benzodiazepine is the usual choice.

Oral sedation ranges from mild to moderate, depending on the dosage. If you choose oral sedation, it cannot be ‘adjusted’ like nitrous oxide, and there may be residual drowsiness, so it’s best to arrange for someone to drive you to and from your appointment.

IV Sedation

IV sedation, a deeper form of sedation, is administered through an IV. Usually, benzodiazepines are used, and this type of sedation is recommended for more complex procedures or patients with severe dental anxiety. IV sedation which can be moderate to deep does not wear off easily, so you can’t drive after the procedure.

Moderate or conscious sedation is appropriate for patients with moderate to severe anxiety or undergoing protracted or complex procedures, such as root canals or wisdom teeth extractions.

Deep sedation makes the patient almost unconscious but can still be awakened if necessary. This level of sedation is appropriate for patients with severe anxiety or complex procedures, such as multiple extractions or implant placements.

General anaesthesia is the deepest level of sedation and involves medications that render the patient completely unconscious. This level of sedation is appropriate for patients with severe anxiety or very complex procedures requiring the patient to be completely still, such as jaw surgery or full mouth reconstruction.

The Australian Dental Association has guidelines on who can perform IV sedation. This way, only qualified dentists can perform it, and the equipment is more standardised.


Sedation can help make your dental experience more comfortable and less stressful. The appropriate level of dental sedation depends on the patient’s anxiety level, the procedure’s complexity, and the patient’s medical history.

Minimal sedation is appropriate for patients with mild anxiety or simple procedures. In contrast, moderate and deep sedation may be necessary for more complex procedures or patients with moderate to severe anxiety.

General anaesthesia is reserved for complex procedures or patients requiring complete unconsciousness. Whether you choose nitrous oxide, oral sedation, or IV sedation, there is an option that can work for you.