Oral sedation, also known as pill sedation, is a method dentists use to help calm patients during dental procedures.
Oral sedation is when patients take medications in pill form by mouth in the hours leading up to their appointment. The goal is to help the patient remain calm and feel much more relaxed throughout their dental procedure. Examples of oral sedatives used are in the benzodiazepine family and include medications such as Valium, Xanax, Ativan or triazolam. These medications work by decreasing the activity in the areas of the brain that control fear and anxiety. It is a much deeper form of sedation than nitrous oxide and typically has the added side effects of sleepiness and memory loss.
Pros of Oral Sedations:
- Easy to Administer
- You will be prescribed oral medication (pills) to take prior to your procedure to help you feel calm throughout—there is no need to have a needle stick in the arm to start an IV.
- The medications used for oral sedation often cause patients to have little to no memory of the procedure. This is an advantage for those with dental fear and anxiety because once they leave the dental chair, they will not remember most of the procedure.
- Oral sedatives are very safe and regulated by the FDA. Complications with these medications are very rare.
- Although you may feel sleepy and sedated, you will still be awake and responsive. This means you can talk to your dentist throughout the procedure and take instructions to help them do the best job possible.
Nitrous oxide can be used in addition to oral anesthesia to create an even more profound effect when necessary.
Cons of Oral Sedation:
- With oral sedatives, it can take an hour or more for a patient to feel the effects, and the sedation level can vary depending on the patient's metabolism. With IV sedation or nitrous oxide, you feel the effects right away, and the effects are more predictable.
- Sedation Level Can Not Be Adjusted Easily
- Each person metabolizes pills differently, so the length of time to get sedated, stay sedated and the depth of sedation will vary. Additional dosages will take up to an hour to take full effect.
- Patient Cannot Drive
- Patients taking oral sedation medications are not permitted to drive the day they take the medication. They will need someone to drive them to and from the appointment. The driver is not required to stay in the office for the entire procedure, but they will need to arrive within 15 minutes of our call for pickup.