Sedation Dentistry

/Sedation Dentistry
Sedation Dentistry 2020-02-13T20:45:36-07:00
Call: (403) 253-1248

Sedation dentistry by our experienced dental team 

-Dr. Jennifer Silver

Sedation Dentistry Calgary

Is Sedation Dentistry Right For Me?

Do you feel tense and anxious when you think about visiting a dental clinic? Would you rather suffer a toothache than take one step toward the dentist’s chair? If so, we have an alternative solution for you! At Macleod Trail Dental, we are pleased to offer our patients comfortable, safe and effective, sedation dentistry.

Sedation dentistry can be used for a range of dental treatments. From invasive procedures to simple teeth cleaning, medication can help patients relax during their dental procedure.

Sedation dentistry is ideal for patients who:

  • Experience nervousness or anxiety when visiting the dentist
  • Have a low pain threshold
  • Experience severe tooth sensitivity
  • Require a lot of dental work
  • Struggle becoming (and staying) numb from anesthetics

Our number one goal is to help you maintain the best oral health possible. Thanks to sedation dentistry, you no longer must postpone or avoid treatments due to dental phobias or anxiety.

What to Expect with Sedation Dentistry

Sedation Dentistry Procedure & Process

Sedation dentistry helps put patients in a relaxed state so that they feel less pain and anxiety during their procedure. Our patients remain conscious and responsive during treatment.

So, how does sedation dentistry work? Here’s what to expect if you elect for optional sedation dentistry:

Step 1: Preparation

Do not eat or drink anything 6 hours prior to your appointment, unless otherwise directed. Keep in mind your health history can affect your recovery, especially for diabetics and smokers. Therefore, it is important to let us know about any medical conditions you have.

Step 2: Administration

Sedatives can be given to patients in a variety of ways including orally or intravenously. The type of sedative used depends on the treatment being performed, your unique medical condition and any other medication(s) you are currently taking. Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed sedatives.

Step 3: Relaxation

After receiving the sedative, many of our patients feel relaxed and much calmer. Although, they remain alert and responsive, and can answer questions. We carefully monitor you throughout your entire visit to ensure all your physiological and pharmacological needs are met. At the end of the day, the goal is to keep you safe while reducing anxiety and discomfort.

Step 4: Recovery

Post-treatment, many patients feel no residual discomfort or side effects caused by the sedative. Although, in some cases, you may not remember your time in the dental chair. If you opt for sedation dentistry, you must be driven and accompanied by a responsible adult to and from your appointment. In addition, it is recommended that you take the rest of the day off work to recuperate. Do not drive or operate any heavy machinery for at least 24 hours. Lastly, it’s important to remember to stay hydrated and drink lots of fluids.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do they use for sedation dentistry?

The type of medication used in our Calgary sedation dentistry services depends on the level of relaxation and sedative effect we’re aiming to achieve. Dental sedatives range from happy gas (nitrous oxide) to oral sedatives (a medication taken by mouth just prior to your visit) to general sedation that’s administered via an intravenous (IV) drip.

When you’re selecting the best sedation dentistry option, we’ll want to consider things such as your overall health, any underlying medical issues, age, and the type of treatment that’s planned. For example, IV sedation is appropriate for a wisdom tooth extraction, but you wouldn’t need it for a routine filling. On the other hand, nitrous oxide is great for anyone with anxiety during a routine cleaning, but it can also provide an overall calming effect for someone who is getting a root canal or dental implants.

Sedatives can be taken by mouth, inhaled through the nose, or delivered intravenously. Each type works differently, depending on what the patient needs and how deeply sedated/relaxed they want to feel throughout their appointment.

How long does it take for oral sedation to kick in?

Adult oral sedation cases are fairly straightforward. Usually, we have you arrive about an hour before the treatment is scheduled to start. At that time, we’ll give you a specific dose of medication (which is usually given in pill form.) Within about a half hour, you’ll start to feel “loopy” and very tired. Optimal sedation is about an hour after the medication is taken.

We have about a 2-3-hour window to complete all necessary treatment when an individual takes oral sedation medication. After this window is over, the sedative will start to slowly wear off. However, it takes anywhere from 4-5 hours to no longer feel sleepy. You should plan stay at home for the rest of the day, as there will likely be some groggy side-effects and mild amnesia. That’s right; you probably won’t remember much of anything your dental appointment!

How long does dental sedation last?

Calgary dental sedation options may wear off immediately or last up to a few hours. The most commonly used is happy gas (nitrous oxide) which wears off as soon as the procedure is completed, so adults can safely drive themselves back home without any lingering side-effects or drowsiness. Since it’s an inhaled sedative, nitrous oxide is quickly reversible as soon as it’s shut off.

However, oral sedation and IV sedation do lead to extended drowsiness. IV sedation can be turned off immediately, but the drug can still take a few hours to completely work its way out of the system to where the person feels 100% again. With oral sedation (pill or liquid by mouth) it may be anywhere from 3-6 hours for it to start wearing off. In either case, you wouldn’t want to drive or operate heavy machinery until the next day. The good news is that you can still sit up, watch TV, or talk with other people within the first hour or two of the sedative wearing off. But in reality, you will probably rather take a nap!

Can I ask my dentist for sedation?

Absolutely. Dental sedation helps our Calgary patients overcome anxiety that might otherwise prevent them from getting the dental treatment that they need. By simplifying the process, you’re better able to relax and catch up on any necessary procedures. Usually, we can combine services into fewer appointments when dental sedation is involved.

It’s never a problem to ask our sedation dentist in Calgary to add the service onto your scheduled appointment. In fact, lighter sedations such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas) can be incorporated into practically any visit (even cleanings and checkups.) The effects wear off quickly and you won’t even need to change your daily schedule.

However, deeper sedatives and anesthesia such as oral sedation and IV medication will need to be well planned out in advance. So, if you need a particular treatment but you’re hesitant about sitting through it, ask our Calgary dentist which types of sedation are available for your procedure. We’ll be more than happy to discuss your options with you. After all, we want you to feel as comfortable as possible!

Does dental anesthesia have side effects?

Aside from “general” anesthesia which makes your entire body relaxed and sleepy, dental “local” anesthesia is a numbing medication that only effects the immediate area around where the medication was injected.

The most common side effect of local dental anesthetic is the prolonged numbness after it’s administered. That area of your mouth and face may feel numb or “fat” for 3-5 hours or more after the anesthesia is administered. It’s very important to make sure you’re not chewing or biting your mouth in the meantime, otherwise you could literally create severe open wounds in your lips, tongue, and cheek that you won’t notice until the numbing medication wears off.

Local anesthetic works by targeting the nerves that serve specific areas of your mouth. However, if it is not injected properly there is the risk of complications such as nerve damage or partial muscular paralysis. Both of these conditions are extremely rare, but it is important to know that they are always a risk any time local dental anesthesia is used.

Can dental anesthesia cause nerve damage?

In extremely rare situations, local dental anesthetic has been linked with nerve damage and partial paralysis (of the facial muscles.) However, as long as local anesthesia is administered by a trained and licensed dental professional, the side-effects can be kept to a minimum.
When nerve damage is caused, it may take anywhere from days, weeks, months, or years to improve. Or, it might not at all. Although the risk is extremely low, it’s something that every dental patient should be made aware of.

The truth is the risk of possible nerve damage caused by local anesthetic is so low that the benefits of your necessary dental treatment outweigh the potential side-effects. Otherwise, untreated dental infections such as cavities, periodontal disease, and abscessed teeth can have a far greater detrimental impact on your oral and overall health.

If you’ve had a bad experience with dental anesthesia in the past, be sure to let our Calgary dentist know. It might be possible to use a different type of local anesthetic or numbing process to achieve the same level of comfort without aggravating a situation that already exists.

Can you feel pain when sedated?

Dental sedation helps your overall body and mind to relax, so that you can feel comfortable while you’re sitting through a routine treatment. But what it doesn’t do is completely numb you to pain. Instead, you might think of it like having a few glasses of wine, where you’re less perceptive to stimuli but they still exist.

To ensure that you’re completely comfortable during a sedation appointment, our Calgary dentist will still administer local anesthetic to completely numb the tooth that we’re working on. The great thing here is that if you tend to get nervous about having injections, the sedative will usually keep you from caring very much or being aware of it at all.

In most cases, the only thing you’ll feel during a sedation dentistry visit is a bit of pressure. Other than that, you shouldn’t feel any sort of discomfort or stimuli to the tooth we’re working on. If for any reason you do, let us know and we can add additional local anesthetic to that area of your mouth.

Can I get general anesthetic at the dentist?

In some cases, yes. General anesthesia can be administered inside of our Calgary dentist office or at a nearby hospital as long as there are visiting privileges set in place. Any time you get general anesthesia, your provider must be licensed to administer that type of medication. Not every dentist is, but some are. If not, or if they need to focus more attention to the procedure at hand, an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist can come into the office to monitor the anesthesia throughout your procedure.

Why would you want to get general anesthesia at the dentist? Calgary oral surgery cases such as wisdom tooth removal, dental implant placement, or extensive full mouth reconstruction are just a few examples. When you need more involved procedures or lengthier treatments and prefer to “tune everything out” so that it can be completed in one visit, general anesthetic is a wonderful solution.

General anesthesia for dental procedures is typically reserved on a case-by-case basis. It’s also useful for individuals with special needs who may not be able to sit through any necessary treatments.

Is lidocaine stronger than Novocain?

Novocain is a traditional type of local anesthetic (numbing agent) that was used for an extended amount of time throughout dentistry and medicine. However, newer local anesthetics now exist that work quicker and better than Novocain can.
Lidocaine is one such example. It’s also the most commonly used local anesthetic by dentists. The numbing agent comes in varying solutions and strengths. There are also other blends of anesthetic made for individuals who might be sensitive to epinephrine (such as pregnant women or people with heart problems,) such as Septocaine.

As you might notice, each of these medications still come from the same drug family as “-caine” is referenced in their names. So even though they are different from one another, they’re still similar in how they work and the effectiveness of each. It’s just that so much research has been done on Novocain and Lidocaine, that there are different formulas of the medication available to best fit the needs of the patient’s situation. In most cases, our Calgary dentist will use Lidocaine; but we do keep other anesthetics in stock when the situation warrants them.

Can I ask my dentist for laughing gas?

Yes. Laughing gas – or nitrous oxide sedation – is a gentle and safe analgesic that is useful for practically any dental procedure. It’s safe on all ages, as long as you’re healthy.

The best thing about laughing gas is that it’s convenient enough to add onto your visit, even if you weren’t expecting to need dental sedation. So, if you’re starting to feel a little nervous or having a hard time getting comfortable, then our Calgary dentist can easily start the nitrous oxide at any time. It only takes a few minutes to start working and can be easily adjusted to fit your needs.

Once your visit is complete, the laughing gas is turned off and you’ll breath pure oxygen for about five minutes, as the sedative leaves your respiratory system. In a matter of moments, you’ll start to feel yourself again. There aren’t any lingering side effects such as drowsiness or tiredness, so you’ll be able to drive yourself back home as soon as the procedure is over.

If anxiety is keeping you from booking that treatment you need, be sure to ask our dentist in Calgary about laughing gas!

We want to make your dental experience as comfortable as possible. After all, we believe going to the dentist shouldn’t be an uncomfortable or anxiety-inducing experience. Knowledge about sedation dentistry is empowering. We encourage all our patients to discuss their concerns and fears with us. That way, we can help you decide on the best course of action for your treatment.

To learn more about sedation dentistry, contact us anytime at 403-253-1248, or email us at

Services are provided by General Dentists