Sedation dentistry in San Diego

Brushing, flossing, and twice-yearly checkups are the hallmarks of good oral hygiene, but many people experience anxiety about going to the dentist, even though skipping exams can lead to serious dental issues down the line. If you have anxiety about potential pain or discomfort at the dentist, or you have problems sitting still for long periods of time, sedation dentistry can alleviate anxiety and induce relaxation through the use of anesthesia.

Who is eligible for sedation dentistry?

Anyone who experiences general anxiety about dental procedures can request sedation. While there is no need for a prescription or doctor’s approval, you will need to disclose your medical history including current medications and drug allergies. Most patients who opt for sedation are 18 and older, but in certain cases, pediatric patients might qualify. Other reasons you might choose sedation dentistry include:

  • Dental sensitivity
  • Resistance to local anesthetics
  • Difficulty controlling movements
  • Previous traumatic dental experience
  • Aversion to needles

What procedures benefit from sedation dentistry?

For patients with extreme dental anxiety, sedation dentistry can be used for simple procedures including regular cleanings and fillings. However, sedation dentistry is most commonly used for complex, time-consuming procedures such as:

  • Extractions
  • Wisdom teeth removal
  • Dental implant surgery
  • Bone grafts
  • Gum surgery
  • Periodontal maintenance

Request an Appointment

    What are the levels of sedation available?

    There are four main levels of sedation used in sedation dentistry, and the level recommended for each patient depends on the type of procedure and the patient’s preferred level of comfort:

    • Light sedation: Provides peaceful relaxation. The patient remains completely awake and aware.
    • Conscious sedation: Stronger levels of relaxation. The patient remains conscious and able to respond to commands.
    • Deep sedation: Extreme relaxation near the edge of unconsciousness. Patient may fall asleep.
    • Unconscious sedation: Patient is completely unconscious for a set period of time.

    What types of sedatives are used?


    For light sedation, dentists typically use nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, because patients have been known to giggle involuntarily while under its effects. Nitrous oxide is administered with a mask placed over the patient’s mouth and nose. The dentist can easily control the amount of sedation received, which makes it customizable for patients of different ages and medical conditions. Another benefit of nitrous oxide is that it wears off quickly, and most adults can drive themselves home after the procedure.

    For moderate, still-conscious sedation, dentists often use oral sedatives that make patients feel drowsy but still aware enough to respond to commands. The oral sedatives are usually prescribed beforehand, and patients will take them ahead of the procedure. However, the effects take a while to wear off, so patients will need to arrange for transportation.

    Deep sedation and unconscious sedation is achieved through intravenous (IV) general anesthesia, administered with a small needle placed in the back of the patient’s hand or crook of the elbow. General anesthesia must be administered by dentists who are certified anesthesiologists.  The dentist can adjust the level of sedation during the procedure to ensure that the patient remains deeply relaxed or fully unconscious. As with oral sedatives, the use of general anesthesia requires the patient to arrange for transportation.

    Sedation dentistry has helped countless patients overcome their anxiety about dental procedures, from simple teeth cleanings to complex oral surgery. At Smile Designers, we want you to feel comfortable and confident about dental work so you can maintain optimum oral health. For more information about sedation dentistry, call us at (619) 222-6000.