I’ve found that many patients don’t really understand what sedation dental care means – what the experience will be like for them. Patients who haven’t explored sedation dental care often assume things that simply aren’t true. Some members of the dental profession even contribute to this confusion by referring to sedation dental care as “sleep dentistry.” That is really a misnomer for the level of sedation dentistry that is normally practiced.
Oral conscious sedation – a level of sedation used to carry out minor to relatively extensive dental procedures – doesn’t put you to sleep (cause you to lose consciousness). When you experience oral conscious sedation, you aren’t subject to the additional risk that comes with increased levels of sedation (such as general anesthesia) that are used for more serious oral surgery purposes. We call those increased levels of sedation deep sedation because they do result in loss of consciousness.
What Does Oral Conscious Sedation Mean?
Oral means that the sedation is provided orally (one or more pills), rather than being given intravenously (with a needle). Secondly, with this form of sedation dental care, you remain conscious, even though you are likely to remember little, if anything, about the treatment experience afterwards. Even those who have experienced it would find it hard to describe the state because of the short-term lack of awareness and time that typically occurs. Many people assume or state that they were asleep because of their lack of recollection. The advantages of remaining conscious are:
- You can still “assist” the dentist – respond to verbal commands (e.g., open your mouth, close your mouth) even though you’re not aware enough to feel like you’re actually participating in the procedure. Your ability to assist can actually shorten the duration of the procedure.
- There is less risk of needing to be resuscitated because of the type of sedation being used.
- This form of sedation is generally less expensive than sedation that renders you unconscious. (The environment, equipment, and staff training requirements all necessarily become more complex to control risk when a patient becomes unconscious. This results in higher costs being passed on to you.)
With oral conscious sedation, you are sedated enough that you will need a caregiver to come to our office and take you home afterward. With many extensive procedures for which we use this method of sedation, patients report that they need less medication to control any post-treatment discomfort compared to when the same treatment is performed without sedation.
Be sure to ask us if you have other questions about sedation dental care and why it might be helpful to you or a family member.