What is the Difference Between Sedation Dentistry and Anesthesia?

Posted by Dr. Soto May 25, 2018

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Sedation Dentistry vs. Anesthesia

Nine to fifteen percent of all Americans avoid seeing the dentist due to anxiety and fear. That’s approximately 30 to 40 million people.1 According to a study by The Adult Dental Health Survey published in Dentistry Today, those with a phobia of the dentist have higher rates of tooth decay and missing teeth. Because oral bacteria are linked with a host of other health problems from heart attacks to strokes2, it’s not something you want to ignore. Whether your anxiousness stems from traumatizing previous experiences, that feeling of being powerless, embarrassment at your dental health, or any other reason – it is worth looking fear in the eye and seeking the dental care you need

Today, dentists have a host of options at their fingertips when it comes to creating a relaxing and stress-free environment for their patients. Your unique circumstances will dictate which type of sedation is best for you – dental IV sedation or general anesthesia. Your dentist will consider the type of procedure you’re having done, as well as your level of stress surrounding the visit. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), there are four main categories of sedation used for dentistry – minimal, in which you are awake but soothed, moderate in which your memory will be blurred, deep which places you on the edge of consciousness with the ability to be woken up, and general anesthesia, which renders you temporarily unconscious.3 In mostly all cases, a local anesthetic injection will be administered to mitigate any pain you may encounter.

In addition to being pain-free, Intravenous (IV) Sedation allows dentists to conduct several large-scale procedures during one sitting, and even perform full mouth reconstruction if necessary.4 Because the sedative is administered through the patient’s vein, the medicine will be effective quickly – within about two minutes.5 Your dentist may toggle the strength depending on your pain threshold. While you will be conscious to an extent, you will feel so calm and collected that you may even fall asleep6 (something quite foreign to those with a dental phobia). According to, this type of sedative has a lengthy period of amnesia, which means you won’t remember what transpired during your dental visit. So, other than your exemplary results, it’ll be as if it never happened!

Sedation dentistry is beneficial for those who have a low pain threshold, fidget uncontrollably, have sensitive teeth or gums, or those with a strong gag reflex.3 Dr. Ernie Soto is one dentist utilizing this technique to manage pain in patients needing dental care beyond the standard cleaning. Those requiring more extensive or invasive treatments such as implants, root canals, teeth whitening, crown or denture replacement, gum restoration, and chipped tooth repair, may all be candidates for the IV method of sedation. Once your procedure is finished, you’ll have a swifter recovery time than is typically expected of oral sedation or general anesthesia. All in all, it’s a wonderful alternative for the dentist-averse.

A more heavy-duty form of sedation, general anesthesia requires a combination of intravenous and inhaled gases to put a patient completely under for surgery. Because it depresses both the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, it holds a far greater risk than IV sedation. Those with certain health restrictions – obesity, high blood pressure, heavy alcohol use, incidence of seizures, diabetes, drug allergies, obstructive sleep apnea, or those who smoke, will be more susceptible to surgical complications.7 The use of general anesthesia is becoming more uncommon these days; however, some people who have a very high tolerance for the medicines administered in IV sedation may respond better to this mode.8

Dental patients today have many options to help them conquer their fears and get the care they need to maintain a healthy mouth. During a consultation, your dentist will address a variety of factors, including your health history and past experiences with sedation, to determine which mode is best suited to you. One of the most important ways to feel at ease about the dentist is by selecting one you can trust. Dr. Ernie Soto is a highly qualified reconstructive dentist who has performed countless surgical, implant, and cosmetic procedures with wonderful results. Offering state-of-the-art techniques and a genuine concern for patient expectations, Dr. Soto gets the stamp of approval from even the most discerning patients. For more information, call 954-368-6264.

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