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Oral Conscious Sedation vs. Nitrous Oxide Sedation: Which is Right For You?

When it comes to dental procedures, many people experience anxiety and apprehension. Fortunately, sedation dentistry provides various options to help patients relax and stay comfortable throughout their appointment. Two popular methods of sedation are oral conscious sedation and nitrous oxide sedation. These methods are effective but used in different circumstances and have other effects. Here’s an overview of their differences and when they might be appropriate.

Oral Conscious Sedation

Oral conscious sedation involves taking a prescribed pill before the procedure. These medications are typically in the benzodiazepine family, such as Valium, Ativan, or Halcion. They can reduce anxiety and induce calmness. Your dentist can adjust the degree of sedation based on what you may require.

Onset and Duration: The effects of oral sedation typically start within an hour of taking the medication and can last several hours, depending on the dosage and individual factors. Because of this, having a friend or family member drive you to and from your appointment is crucial.

Level of Consciousness: With oral conscious sedation, you remain awake and responsive during the procedure, but you’ll likely be drowsy and less aware of your surroundings. You may only remember a little of the procedure afterward.

Ideal Uses: Oral conscious sedation is often recommended for patients with moderate to severe dental anxiety, more prolonged procedures, or complex dental needs. However, it is not recommended for patients with certain medical conditions or those taking specific medications, so a thorough medical history is essential.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

Also known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is a colorless, odorless gas inhaled through a mask placed over your nose. It produces feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and even mild giddiness, hence the nickname.

Onset and Duration: Nitrous oxide works quickly, typically within a few minutes, and the effects wear off soon after removing the mask, which means you can drive yourself to and from your appointment without needing assistance.

Level of Consciousness: Nitrous oxide leaves you fully conscious and responsive but with a heightened sense of relaxation and decreased pain perception. Unlike oral conscious sedation, you’ll remember the procedure and feel less stressed and more pleasant.

Ideal Uses: Nitrous oxide is suitable for patients with mild to moderate dental anxiety, short procedures, or those who need a quick return to normal activities. It’s safe for most patients, but discussing your medical history with your dentist is still essential.

Apples to Oranges

Oral conscious sedation is more potent than nitrous oxide and is better suited for patients with higher levels of dental anxiety or more complex dental needs. It requires planning, as you’ll need someone to accompany you. The amnesic effects can also be a significant advantage for those with extreme dental phobias.

Nitrous oxide is less potent but is more convenient and versatile. It’s a good option for those with mild anxiety or those undergoing shorter, more straightforward procedures. The ability to drive yourself to and from your appointment is a significant advantage for many patients.

Ultimately, the choice between oral conscious sedation and nitrous oxide sedation will depend on your specific needs, level of anxiety, and the procedure you’re undergoing. Discussing your options with your dentist and providing a complete medical history to ensure your safety and comfort during the procedure is important. Sedation dentistry has made dental care more accessible and less stressful for many patients. To learn more about how sedation dentistry can help you, schedule an appointment with Dr. Banik and his team at Carolina Family Dentistry today.


Sedation Dentistry

If you or a loved one are experiencing extreme anxiety about your visit, we recommend talking with Dr. Banik or one of our team members about one of our sedation dentistry options.

Undergoing sedation allows our patients to relax and better manage the pain of any dental procedures. We especially recommend sedation to any patients who may have very sensitive teeth, are undergoing a more intense dental procedure, or have an extreme fear of shots or needles.

About Sedation Medication 

Sedation is a medication that puts you to sleep during your dental treatment. The amount of medication used determines your state of sedation. We can sedate you to a state of awake, but relaxed or even go with deep sedation, during which you are barely conscious, but can be woken up. Some common types of sedation medication used include nitrous oxide, oral sedatives, and intravenous sedatives. 

Once you receive the sedative, you will begin to feel drowsy and relaxed. Depending on the strength, you will either stay with this feeling or fall into sleep. 

At Carolina Family Dentistry, we offer the following sedation dentistry options for our patients:

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

Nitrous Oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, is inhaled through the nose and provides patients with a calming and relaxing sensation. This form of sedation dentistry is the most affordable solution and enables you to remain awake so you are still able to drive to and from appointments.

Oral Conscious Sedation

Oral Conscious Sedation is an option providing a deeper level of relaxation for patients through an oral medication prescribed by Dr. Banik. When the sedation medication takes effect, you will have limited or no memory of your appointment and therefore must have someone with you to drive you to and from our office. If necessary, oral conscious sedation can also be combined with nitrous oxide.

Why Sedation Helps 

The main goal of sedation is to reduce anxiety and increase relaxation during the services. Sedation dentistry can be very beneficial for patients who are receiving certain services such as tooth extractions, root canals, and other more painful services. Additionally, phobias of the dentist can cause unwanted anxiety, therefore sedation can help ease the patient. The name for this fear is called dentophobia and ⅓ of the US population struggles with it.