What is Oral Sedation?

What is Oral Sedation?

Are you one of countless people who breaks out into a cold sweat when you think about going to the dentist? It doesn’t matter if it’s a basic cleaning or a major tooth extraction, you’re a nervous wreck the whole time. A lot of people feel this way, and unfortunately, many will skip a necessary appointment out of fear.

You don’t have to stay away from the dentist or live in fear of a procedure. Oral (or non-IV) sedation may be exactly what you need to help you get through your next visit.

Why Choose Oral Sedation?

Why Choose Oral Sedation?Some people have a genuine phobia about going to the dentist or some of the procedures done and tools used. Plenty of people get bad shivers thinking about the drill or the needles we use. Here are signs you may want to consider oral sedation for your next dental procedure:

  • You have extreme anxiety in general, but especially at the dentist.
  • You’re having invasive dental surgery.
  • The procedure is a big one that you want to get done at once, instead of in smaller, more frequent procedures over time.
  • You’re terrified of going to the dentist, the procedure being done, or the tools used.

How Oral Sedation Works

How Oral Sedation WorksWhen you come to the office and we know you’re interested in oral sedation, we’ll take your medical history and check your blood pressure to make sure you’re a good candidate. If you can take advantage of oral sedation for your procedure, you’ll be prescribed two doses of medication. You’ll take one before bed the night before you come in to help you sleep. You’ll take the second dose about an hour before your procedure to help you feel relaxed during it.

Using oral sedation means that you can’t drive a car at all or travel anywhere (even on a bus or train) by yourself. You’ll need someone with you at your appointment who can help get you home. They’ll also need to be able to take the information we provide for your follow-up appointment, any care you need, and what to do in the hours and days that follow. Whoever brings you should be someone you trust with this information.

What Medication is Used

medication (aka “benzos”) to relieve your anxiety. This is a common medication, and you may know it as Valium, Xanax, Ativan, among several others. The medications work by turning down the part of your brain that regulates fear and makes you feel anxious in the first place.

There are two main types of benzos that are used:

  1. Sedative-hypnotics that cause major drowsiness and may put you in a hypnotic state while you’re on the medication. You may lose memories of the procedure or time while the medication is in your system.
  2. Anti-anxiety medications that relieve your anxiety without leaving you drowsy or nearly asleep.

In reality, any benzo can be used for either state, it all depends on the dosage you receive and how your body reacts to the medication. All benzos are relatively safe, which is why they’re a highly prescribed medication. What’s important is to take it only as is prescribed. Do not mix it with alcohol or take more than the stated dose.

Oral Sedation Isn’t For Everyone

Oral Sedation Isn’t For EveryoneAlthough a popular method to alleviate anxiety at the dentist, oral sedation isn’t for everyone. It’s possible to be given the standard dose of benzos and feel little to no effect at all. This can happen in about 25 percent of patients. There’s no way to know, until you take it, how quickly your stomach will absorb the dose and how it will affect you. But the placebo effect is real, so if you believe it will help, you’re likely to benefit, while if you don’t believe, it’s possible to have less impact.

There are people who aren’t good candidates for oral sedation which is why we take a full medical history before prescribing medication. If you have any of these conditions, you may not be able to use benzodiazepines for your dental procedure:

  • Allergy to benzos
  • Glaucoma
  • Pregnant
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Depression or bipolar disorder
  • Respiratory disease
  • Impaired kidney function
  • Impaired liver function
  • Chronic bronchitis

You also may not be a good candidate if you’re on other medications that counteract the oral sedation.


Oral sedation is a safe way to take the anxiety and fear out of going to the dentist. It may not work for everyone, but the vast majority of patients are helped by it. Don’t avoid going to the dentist because you’re scared. Talk to us instead so we can help you find solutions to keep your teeth and the rest of you healthy without feeling too anxious or afraid.