Sedation and Dental Care

Sedation during a dental procedure is the use of a medication to promote relaxation, guide you or your child's behavior, and relieve discomfort and anxiety. Unlike general anaesthesia, sedation is not intended to make you or your child unconscious or unresponsive. Your dental caregiver can discuss the different options with you and help you decide whether sedation is appropriate and which type may work best for you or your child.


Benefits of sedation may include:

  • Safety, especially in children, who may resist and move around during a difficult procedure.

  • Relief of anxiety and fear.

  • Reduction or elimination of pain or discomfort.

  • Low cost when compared to general anaesthesia.


There are different types of sedation for dental care. They include:

  • Inhaled medications that reduce anxiety, such as nitrous oxide.

  • Other medicine to help you or your child relax.

Your dental caregiver will select a medication based on your overall health, level of anxiety, and the type of procedure.


In general, any medication, procedure, or surgery carries a slight risk of side effects or complications. It is important to discuss your overall health with your caregiver. Let your caregiver know about:

  • Allergies.

  • Any history of anaesthesia use.

  • Medications you are taking including herbs and supplements.

 The risk of complications depends on the type of sedation, and may include:

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Infection.

  • Allergic reaction to the medicine.


Prior to the appointment, you or your child may be asked to avoid food and drinks for several hours. This will help prevent nausea from the medication. If your child is having sedation, explain the sedation procedure so they know what to expect.

Your caregiver may place a mask over the nose to deliver a special gas to keep you or your child relaxed. Inhaled nitrous oxide is the most common type of sedation used by dentists. In other cases, a pill can be taken at home or at the dentist office before the procedure. For more complex procedures, an intravenous (IV) access tube may be placed in the arm to deliver medication during the procedure. 

You or your child will be monitored throughout the procedure. The time it takes to recover from sedation is different for everyone.


You will need to arrange for a ride home and for someone to stay with you until you are alert. However with nitrous oxide sedation, you will be able to drive yourself to and from the dental appointment. You or your child should eat light meals and rest for the remainder of the day. You or your child may need to limit your diet and physical activity for a short period during recovery. 


  • Follow all of your caregiver's instructions on preparing for your appointment.

  • Follow all of your caregiver's instructions on taking care of yourself or your child after a procedure with sedation.

  • Follow up with your dental caregiver as directed.

  • Make sure your caregiver is qualified and trained to administer the type of sedation you or your child will be given.