About Minimal and Moderate Sedation
Regardless of which type of sedation you receive, you'll also typically need a local anesthetic -- numbing medication
at the site where the dentist is working in the mouth -- to relieve pain if the procedure causes any discomfort.
Inhaled minimal sedation. You breathe nitrous oxide -- otherwise known as "laughing gas" -- combined with oxygen
through a mask that's placed over your nose. The gas helps you relax. Your dentist can control the amount of sedation
you receive, and the gas tends to wear off quickly. This is the only form of sedation where you may be able to
drive yourself home after the procedure.
Oral sedation. Depending on the total dose given, oral sedation can range from minimal to moderate. For minimal
sedation, you take a pill. Typically, the pill is Halcion, which is a member of the same drug family as Valium,
and it's usually taken about an hour before the procedure. The pill will make you drowsy, although you'll still
be awake. A larger dose may be given to produce moderate sedation. This is the type of anesthesia most commonly
associated with sedation dentistry. Some people become groggy enough from moderate oral sedation to actually fall
asleep during the procedure. They usually can, though, be awakened with a gentle shake.