Dental Sedation

The Differences Between Sedation and Anesthesia in Dentistry


One concept that consistently confuses patients is the difference between sedation and anesthesia. Honestly, we don’t blame them. These two concepts have similar definitions, and medical professionals occasionally use them interchangeably. Still, it is important to have precise knowledge of a medical topic before undergoing it, so learning about these two treatments is well worth your time.

What is Anesthesia?

The definition of anesthesia is the general usage of medication to reduce sensation. It is frequently used for especially painful or time-consuming procedures, but also has others applications. Medical professionals break this concept up into the 3 following categories.

  • Local – This type of treatment will numb a single, small area. In a dental context, that could mean reducing the feeling in your mouth for a root canal.
  • Regional – This variant refers to the numbing of larger areas, such as an entire arm or leg, and is generally not used in a dentist’s office.
  • General – The last type of anesthesia is the one that “puts you to sleep.” Getting it will make you feel no pain and also lead to a loss of consciousness.

Where Sedation Fits In

Sedation is a result of general anesthesia that dentists and other medical professionals seek for some types of treatments. What these two methods share is that they are both used to lessen pain and lead to some degree of lost consciousness. These results benefit the patient by making the procedure less stressful and painful.

How They Differ

Where these two treatments differ is in severity. When a medical professional wants to “put you to sleep,” meaning you lose all consciousness, they will call that general anesthesia. Sedation, on the other hand, has the following range of strengths.

  • Light – You will likely take an anti-anxiety pill or inhale nitrous oxide for this strength. As a result, you will feel relaxed but lose little or no consciousness. You should remember the appointment entirely.
  • Moderate – Here, you will generally inhale nitrous oxide and lose partial consciousness. You will likely have little or no memory of the treatment.
  • Heavy – Through either nitrous oxide or an IV, you will lose almost all of your consciousness and have no memory of the event.

What to Expect at a Sedation Dental Appointment

Your precise needs will dictate what to expect from your sedation dentist appointment. If you have minor dental anxiety, you might simply take a pill before your treatment and feel its calming effects. For more severe issues or lengthy procedures, your dentist could opt to give you moderate or heavy sedation. No matter what, you will be safe in the hands of a trained medical professional, and the appointment will be over as quickly as possible.

Now that you understand the difference between sedation and anesthesia, you can book a dental appointment with confidence. One thing that eases the mind of many patents is that dental sedation usually involves staying partially conscious. This makes the treatment much less scary to those that are uncomfortable with the idea of general anesthesia.


The Dental Anesthesia Center: Sedation and Sleep Dentistry

950 Francis Pl #305

Clayton, MO


(314) 862-7844

Dental Sedation

How Laughing Gas Works in Sedation Dentistry


Many St. Louis residents from all walks of life have trouble going to the dentist. That might be because of dental anxiety, low pain tolerance, having a disease that causes uncontrollable movement, or many other factors. Whatever their issue might be, sedation dentistry is an option that many of them choose to get the dental work they need. When they explore this avenue, something that they often come into contact with is “laughing gas.” This chemical has high name recognition, but people often do not fully understand it.

What Is It?

Laughing gas is a colorless and odorless gas that is administered to patients to sedate them. Its scientific name is nitrous oxide, and it has been used for decades in the medical industry. It has been found to generally be safe and is used every day in medical facilities across the country.

How Long It Takes to Start Working

Nitrous oxide starts to affect patients quickly, but not instantly. Usually, a medical professional will have a patient start to breath the gas in while continuing to talk to them. After a few minutes, the patient will lose some level of consciousness, and the treatment can begin.

Doses and Effects

Contrary to popular belief, laughing gas does not always “put you to sleep.” In fact, it can be given in a range of doses that all have different effects. In general, nitrous oxide does three things: Reduces consciousness, compromises memory, and kills pains. The three categories of doses most medical professionals use are listed below.

Low – This will deeply relax the patient and slightly compromise their memory, but they will retain consciousness throughout the appointment. This dose is usually used for mild cases of dental anxiety and other non-serious issues.

Medium – On a medium dose, the patient will remain conscious, but they will be considerably sedated and will likely not remember the appointment. This is used for stronger cases of anxiety, more severe issues, and painful procedures.

High – This dose will take the patient to the edge of consciousness. They will nearly be asleep and have no memory of the events after they regain full consciousness. High doses are used for unmanageable anxiety, severe alternative issues, and exceptionally painful treatments.

Coming out of It

Most of us have either experienced first hand or seen what happens when someone comes back from nitrous oxide. They are often disoriented, slurring their speech, and having trouble walking. What these effects come from is the process of returning to consciousness. Laughing gas is very powerful, and though recovery from it is generally quick, there is a period of difficulty. Generally, people will come back to their senses within twenty minutes and feel fine.
If you have difficulty going to the dentist, you should not simply accept those feelings and choose to never go. Your oral health will suffer, and you will pay for it later on. Instead, give sedation dentistry a try. When you do, there is a good chance you will use laughing gas. Now that you know the basics of this compound, you can understand what is going on in your body and prepare yourself for its effects.

The Dental Anesthesia Center: Sedation and Sleep Dentistry

950 Francis Pl #305

Clayton, MO


(314) 862-7844

Dental Sedation

What to Expect After You Come out of Sedation


Between low pain tolerance, sensitive teeth, not being able to sit still, and dental anxiety, there are plenty of people in St. Louis that could use dental sedation to get the oral care that they need. Unfortunately, many of these people are also scared of sedation. Fear is understandable, but because sedation is generally safe, that fear is ultimately unwise. One way to lessen this uneasiness is through education. That way, a patient knows exactly what to expect from their St. Louis sedation dentist appointment before they ever arrive.

What to Expect

Though every appointment will be slightly different, the following are a few feelings that patients experience frequently.

Little or No Memory of the Treatment – A typical thing patients ask after they come out of sedation is “when do we start?” The reason is that moderate and heavy sedation both lead to memory loss. When you come back to full consciousness, do not be alarmed when you realize that your treatment has been carried out already.

Initial Confusion and Disorientation – Your confusion is not exclusive to memory, though. You may feel a bit confused and disoriented in general too. For the first few minutes after you come back, you may deal with some disorientation before gathering yourself.

Decreased Motor Skills – For around fifteen minutes after you come back to full consciousness, you will have a significant amount of trouble with your motor skills. This will extend, to a lesser degree, for a few more hours. Generally, dentists recommend you stay away from driving or heavy machinery for a full day.

Measures You Should Take

Though the moments after your sedation can be a bit uncomfortable, there are two critical things you can do to make your experience better.

Plan a Ride Home – You generally will not be able to drive after your appointment, so be sure to secure a ride home. The best plan is to have someone you know give you that ride.

Eat a Healthy Meal – Certain forms of sedation require you to be fasted, so your body will likely be starving for calories. A great way to get back to feeling normal is eating a big, healthy meal.

The Critical Piece You Cannot Forget

For some dental procedures, you will need to carry out a treatment plan going forward. In the case of sedation, you cannot solely rely on remembering it. Instead, get that material in written form so you can review it when you are less disoriented.

Now you know what to expect after you come back from sedation. Instead of being afraid, you can mentally prepare for what you’re going to feel and make arrangements for getting a ride home, eating a meal, and receiving your treatment plan in written form. Call The Dental Anesthesia Center today to schedule a visit. We will be happy to answer your questions!


The Dental Anesthesia Center: Sedation and Sleep Dentistry

950 Francis Pl #305

Clayton, MO


(314) 862-7844

Dental Sedation

Who Should Consider Sedation Dentistry?


Whether it was through a friend, billboard, or TV commercial, you may have heard of sedation dentistry. It is a part of the dental industry that has been growing in popularity for a quite some time, and especially in the last few years. One thing you may have wondered, especially if you have no issues going to the dentist, is what it’s purpose is. Below, we explain which types of people should give sedation dentistry a try.

Dental Anxiety

This is the most famous and common reason why people choose sedation. People may experience dental anxiety for a variety of reasons. A patient might be afraid of needles, hate the classic dental noises, have had a bad experience in their youth, or any number of other factors. For these patients, they can get the dental care they need without feeling anxiety due to sedation.

Low Pain Tolerance

Some people have a very low pain tolerance. This means that while the pains of going to the dentist are manageable for most, sufferers of low pain tolerance will feel those pains to the point of being unmanageable. Sedation can help these patients tremendously by raising their pain tolerance.

Sensitive Teeth & Gums

When someone has low pain tolerance, their mouth is the same as everyone else, but the way they feel pain is heightened. Sometimes, a person will have an average pain tolerance but will have especially sensitive teeth and gums. The result of this situation is the same as low pain tolerance: Excessive discomfort. For these types of people, sedation can lower the pain they feel significantly.

Overactive Gag Reflex

This is one of the more frustrating conditions to have at a dental office. You aren’t afraid or in pain, but you cannot stop gagging when the dental team works on you. Luckily, sedation can reduce this effect. Patients often find that sedatives relax their gag reflex and allow them to get the work they need.

Complex Treatment

For certain types of complicated treatment, sedation can be used. This is the case for patients that have no trouble in regular dental appointments but need very long and complex treatment. The sedation will do two things. First, the procedure will go by much faster for a sedated patient. The second is that the dentist will have more freedom to work quickly and efficiently.

Conditions That Cause Uncontrollable Movement

Some conditions, such as cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s, or Tourettes, make people lose control of their movements. As you might imagine, this is not safe at the dentist. Not only will it delay the appointment, but it could mean injury for both the patient and the dentist. Those who suffer from these conditions have tremendous success with sedation dentistry.

As you can see, sedation dentistry is not a practice that is solely meant for a small percentage of the population. It also is not only for sufferers of dental anxiety, given that it helps a variety of other people. If you think you fit into one of these groups or are curious about this type of dentistry, give The Dental Anesthesia Center a call at (314) 862-7844.

Dental Sedation

Is Oral Sedation Right for Your Child’s Next Dental Procedure?


Dental sedation is an excellent way to make the sting of any oral surgery or oral procedure much less, especially for children. A lot of children fear the dentist, and the thought of having any procedure done can cause a high level of anxiety.

For many children, dental sedation not only takes the edge off and stops them from experiencing pain, but it is also an excellent tool for the oral surgeon so that the child sits still and makes it easier and safer for everyone involved in the procedure.

Is It Safe?

Oral sedation is a type of sedation that uses medication to calm a child, and can sometimes put them to sleep. Unlike other forms of sedation like IV sedation, the child can be completely awake and conscious the whole time with oral sedation, so there is less of a risk of breathing issues.

Oral sedation involves giving the patient different types of anti-anxiety medications, which also keep away the needles that can scare your little one.

Oral sedation is ordered through a prescription before the procedure. The pill is taken about thirty minutes before a scheduled appointment so that it has enough time to work before the treatment begins.

What Are the Side Effects?

Often, oral sedation will cause drowsiness, so don’t be overly concerned if your child is acting lethargic. That is a common side effect of oral sedation. In most cases there is very little risk of any side effects with oral sedation since it is an extremely effective and safe form of sedation.

In very rare instances, there are side effects. One side effect of any medication is that there is always a chance that your child will have an allergic reaction to it. Though it is extremely rare, if you notice your child having a hard time breathing or if he or she suddenly develops a rash, immediately take them to the emergency room.

Occasionally, oral sedation medication might cause excessive drowsiness, nausea or vomiting. If your child is having a bad reaction, make sure to contact your oral surgeon immediately. There is also the chance that a patient can have a depressed respiration rate, which can be supplemented with oxygen support until the medication wears off.

How Can You Limit Any Negative Side Effects?

The best way to limit the potential for any unwanted side effects is to fill out the health history form as accurately as possible. It might give a clue to the oral surgeon that your child may have a preexisting condition that can increase the risk for something to happen.

If you are considering using oral sedation for your child’s next oral procedure, know that the risks are generally extremely low and the benefits are high. Not only does oral sedation prevent anxiety from building in your child and leaving a lasting negative feeling toward the dentist, but it can also save them from getting hurt because they can’t sit still. To determine whether or not it is right for your child, speak with an experienced Dental Anesthesiologist.


The Dental Anesthesia Center: Sedation and Sleep Dentistry

950 Francis Pl #305

Clayton, MO


(314) 862-7844