Sometimes people feel nervous when they come to the dentist. They often feel this way because they have a significant or serious procedure scheduled that day.

However, in some cases, patients have a condition called dental anxiety. With this condition, the sights, sounds, and sensations in the dental office make them feel uncomfortable. But because these people know how much dental cleanings and checkups matter, they put up with their discomfort to ensure their mouths stay healthy.

You shouldn't have to feel uncomfortable or anxious when you visit the dentist. To help you feel at ease, many dentists offer sedation dentistry. Sedation involves taking medications that calm your body's fear response and help you feel relaxed. You can take this medication using three different methods.

Sedation Dentistry Methods

1. Oral Sedation

Most patients prefer oral sedation because this method doesn't involve cumbersome devices or needles. Instead, you simply take a pill like Valium or Halcion an hour before your appointment, and then you wait for the effects to kick in.

Once the medication's effects manifest, you'll feel drowsy and tranquil. The stimuli around you shouldn't bother you, even if they normally make you feel anxious. Additionally, depending on the dosage you take, you may even fall asleep during your dental appointment. You won't have to see, hear, or feel anything that happens during your cleaning or other procedure.

However, if you don't feel comfortable sleeping in the dental chair, let your dentist know. He or she can gently waken you without much trouble.

2. Inhaled Sedation

If you choose the inhaled option, your dentist will place a small mask over your nose. The mask attaches to tubes that supply nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, and oxygen. The laughing gas doesn't make you laugh, but it does help you feel more relaxed.

However, since nitrous oxide quickly wears off, you have to wear the mask over your nose throughout the procedure. If you don't like having anything on your face, or if you feel claustrophobic, you might want to choose a different sedation method instead.

3. IV Sedation

This type of sedation works more quickly than the other two methods on this list—but it does so because it enters your system through an IV. Your dentist inserts the IV using a needle, and then the IV supplies powerful sedatives that induce deep relaxation or even unconsciousness. Most patients report that they completely forget the procedure even if they don't fall asleep.

IV sedation works well if you have oral surgery or another significant procedure planned. But if you don't like needles or you don't feel comfortable with being unaware during the procedure, you should choose a different method, like oral sedation, instead.

Considerations and Warnings

Regardless of which sedation method you choose, you still have to take a few precautions. All sedatives help you feel relaxed, but that relaxed state also decreases your balance, reflexes, and reaction time. It also reduces your ability to recognize dangerous situations.

For these reasons, you should not walk or drive home by yourself after the procedure. Rather, you should arrange for someone else to drive. Or, if you live close enough to walk home, have a loved one hold your hand and help you navigate obstacles.

Additionally, you should avoid going to work or participating in any physical activities until the sedation's effects wear off. The effects could take as little as an hour to dissipate, or they could take a day, depending on the dosage. Rest and recuperate in the meantime.

If you have any additional questions about sedation's duration, effects, and more, talk to your dentist. He or she can help you choose a method and create a plan that helps you feel more comfortable during your next appointment.