Dental sedation

About dental sedation

Dental sedation involves giving you medicine to help you relax and prevent pain during dental treatment. It may be recommended to you if you experience dental phobia.

It doesn’t put you to sleep like a general anaesthetic; you’re still conscious and able to talk with your dentist. Instead, it puts you into a deeply relaxed state, where you won’t feel any discomfort or pain.

Different dental sedation techniques are available, including inhalation sedation (wearing a face mask to inhale a gas sedative) and IV sedation (a sedative drug that’s injected into your arm or hand).

If you have dental anxiety or a phobia of dentists and it’s preventing you from getting treatment, whether that’s replacing a missing tooth, a hygienist clean, or having an extraction, dental sedation may help.

Dental sedation may also be suitable if you have a strong gag reflex, require complex treatment, or have a low pain threshold and a topical local anaesthetic isn’t enough.

Considering sedation-assisted dental treatment?

At Bupa Dental Care, many of our practices offer safe and effective sedation options, or they can refer you to another Bupa practice

Am I suitable for sedation?

Both children and adults can have dental sedation. Inhalation sedation is usually used to treat children; IV sedation is only suitable in some cases.

Some patients may not be eligible for sedation. Your clinician will go through your medical history and medication-use to assess your suitability.

How much does dental sedation cost in the UK?

The cost can vary, depending on which type of sedation is used and the duration of your treatment. In your bespoke treatment plan, your dentist will be able to outline the exact costs involved.

What are the different types of dental sedation?

A range of techniques are available, depending on your dentist and your needs. These include:

Inhalation sedation

Inhalation sedation involves breathing in a mixed gas of oxygen and nitrous oxide through a face mask. You’ll feel relaxed and drowsy, but you won’t be put to sleep. This offers a milder level of sedation.

Things to consider about inhalation sedation:

  • Very few side effects
  • If you’re needle-phobic, inhalation sedation may be more suitable for you
  • After treatment, you’ll be given pure oxygen to wear away the nitrous oxide. This means recovery is very quick (between five to ten minutes)
  • Suitable for the majority of patients, including children
  • Driving is usually possible after treatment. Your clinician will be able to advise you
  • In few cases, side effects could include nausea and drowsiness

IV sedation

IV (intravenous) sedation is sometimes called ‘sleep dentistry.’ You won’t be put to sleep, but you’ll have reduced awareness and feel relaxed and sleepy, making treatment more comfortable. The procedure involves injecting a sedative drug via a plastic tube, into a vein in your hand or arm.

Things to consider about IV sedation:

  • You’ll experience minimal to no pain
  • Significantly reduces anxiety
  • The effects can last longer, so multiple treatments can be performed in one appointment
  • You won’t remember the treatment when waking up
  • You’ll be unable to drive temporarily
  • In some cases, side effects could include headaches and nausea

How long does dental sedation last?

The effects of IV dental sedation can last up to 12 hours, while recovery from inhalation sedation usually takes around 30 minutes.

Can you eat before dental sedation?

You shouldn’t eat or drink for six hours before IV sedation, although you can drink water up to two hours before. You must avoid alcohol for 24 hours before your treatment. If you have inhalation sedation, it’s recommended to have a light meal and drink up to two hours before.

Which procedures can be supported by dental sedation?

Dental sedation can be used alongside a variety of treatments, including:

  • Dental implants
  • Hygiene appointments
  • Tooth extractions
  • Fillings
  • Crowns and veneers
  • Root canal treatment

Dental sedation: Aftercare

After inhalation sedation and IV sedation there are some things to keep in mind.

Inhalation sedation

  • You’ll need to remain in the practice until you’ve recovered fully
  • Continue taking any medication as normal
  • Avoid dangerous tasks, active sports, or operating machinery
  • You can usually drive soon after treatment. Your dentist will advise you
  • You can return to work
  • You can eat and drink normally

IV sedation

  • You’ll need to go straight home, by taxi or car, with an accompanying adult
  • For 24 hours post-treatment, you’ll need to be with an adult who’ll look after you
  • We recommend not driving for 24 hours post-treatment
  • You shouldn’t make important decisions, e.g. signing legal documents
  • Don’t smoke or drink alcohol for 24 hours
  • Don’t go back to work for 24 hours
  • Don’t exercise for 24 hours
  • Continue taking any medication as normal
  • You can eat and drink as normal
  • You cannot be responsible for caring for anyone such as children or the elderly for 24 hours, so you’ll need to make alternative plans
  • If you’re breastfeeding, you must not breastfeed for 24 hours

How safe is dental sedation?

There are always risks when getting sedation, as with any treatment. However, it’s typically very safe when provided by professionals experienced and trained in administering sedation.

What’s next?

If you’re interested in dental treatment assisted by sedation, contact your nearest practice. They’ll be able to answer any questions and help you book a treatment consultation, whether it’s for an extraction, root canal, dental implants, or something else. In the treatment consultation, your dentist can discuss and recommend suitable sedation options for you.

If you’d like sedation-assisted hygiene treatment, we can help arrange your appointment and answer your questions. Speak to your local practice to learn more.

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Bupa Dental Care is a trading name of Oasis Dental Care Limited. Registered in England and Wales No: 00478127. Registered office: Bupa Dental Care, Vantage Office Park, Old Gloucester Road, Hambrook, Bristol, United Kingdom BS16 1GW.

Oasis Dental Care Limited has a number of trading names including Bupa Dental Care. For a list of all our different trading names please follow this link.

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