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Whether resulting from a traumatic experience at another dental office or a general dislike of dentistry, anxiety before a dental treatment is not uncommon. One of our goals at Griffiths Smiles is to make your visit as comfortable and pleasant as possible. We understand that some patients may avoid necessary care due to their fears, which is why we provide customized sedation dentistry solutions to alleviate anxiety and make it easier for you to receive treatment.

“Dr. Griffiths and his excellent staff have created a haven for those of us who tremble at the thought of dental work. Everyone is friendly, cheerful, and more than willing to explain why any procedure needs to be done, making it obvious Dr. Griffith and staff stay up to date with current research and technology. Renee the hygienist, Silvia the dental technician, and Liz the office manager have helped Dr. Griffith make me comfortable with my teeth for the first time ever!”

Terri F.

What is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry, sometimes called “sleep dentistry,” comprises several different techniques that can allow patients with dental anxiety to relax in the dentist’s chair. Each sedation method is tailored according to an individual’s unique needs and levels of anxiety, allowing a customized approach to treatment. At our practice, Dr. Mark Griffiths offers two types of sedation: nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and oral conscious sedation.

Who is a Candidate For Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry can be a helpful complement to treatment for patients who:

Sedation techniques can be particularly beneficial for individuals undergoing more extensive dental work, or whose treatment plan encompasses multiple procedures. If you are unsure about the best approach for you, Dr. Griffiths would be happy to help determine the best sedation option for your needs.

Nitrous Oxide

Also known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide has been utilized for pain management during dental treatments for decades. Nitrous oxide is composed of equal parts nitrogen and oxygen, which is inhaled through a breathing mask. This does not put patients to sleep, but rather helps them feel comfortable, relaxed, and stress-free during their treatment. The effects of the nitrous oxide should begin within a few minutes of breathing in the mixture and can induce feelings of comfort and calmness. It is also not uncommon for patients to feel light and easily amused while inhaling the nitrous oxide. These reactions will fade soon after the mask is removed and patients start breathing normally again.

Oral Conscious Sedation

Oral conscious sedation is administered in the form of one or more medications taken orally. Considered safe and effective by the American Dental Association (ADA), this sedation option should create a state of deep relaxation while allowing you to remain conscious for the duration of treatment. The effects normally last for several hours, so it is necessary for a friend or loved one to drive you to and from your appointment.

How Much Does Sedation Dentistry Cost?

The cost of sedation dentistry varies according to which technique was utilized. At our practice, sedation fees may be worked into the cost of your overall treatment plan. For certain procedures involving an all-day appointment, dental sedation may be complimentary. Rest assured that a member of our office will provide you with a personalized quote during your treatment. If you wish to pay in a series of smaller installments rather than a lump sum, Dr. Griffiths accepts dental financing from qualified patients through CareCredit®. As one of the leading healthcare lending companies in the country, CareCredit® offers approved individuals a variety of short- and long-term payment plans to suit their budgetary concerns. Please contact our office to speak with a member of our team for any questions you may have about sedation dentistry.

Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?

Sedation dentistry is considered a safe and often essential part of many dental procedures. When utilized on qualified candidates as a complement to certain dental treatments, sedation dentistry can allow a more effective and comfortable visit to our office. In some cases, it can even reduce patients’ anxiety surrounding future dental treatments. The most important factor when assessing the safety of sedation dentistry is to ensure you are under the care of a gentle, experienced, and well-qualified dentist. Dr. Mark Griffiths is not only a longtime member of national organizations like the American Dental Association, The California Dental Association, and The San Diego County Dental Society, he is also a fifteen-year member of the The Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation (DOCS) and The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). Namely, Dr. Griffith’s completion of DOCS Education — the top organization for advanced courses related to sedation dentistry — can give patients the confidence of knowing their sedation is being conducted by a dentist who has undergone significant training in sedation techniques.

Who Should Perform Sedation Dentistry?

A variety of medical and dental professionals may perform sedation dentistry. It’s usually in the best interest of younger and older patients alike that their sedation is administered under the supervision of a sedation-trained dentist or a dental anesthesiologist. While many different healthcare professionals can perform sedation dentistry, not all providers are created equal. We encourage patients to ask their dentist about his or her level of experience with sedation and raise any questions/concerns related to sedation dentistry to gain a better understanding of the technique.

Additional Sedation Dentistry FAQs

How long does the sedation take to go away?

It depends on the type of sedation utilized. The effects of nitrous oxide generally start once inhaled and quickly fade after your breathing mask is removed. As you begin breathing oxygen again, you should start to feel like your normal self, although some brief dizziness and loss of coordination may occur. If you received oral conscious sedation, the effects should last for hours after your appointment. It’s important to have a friend or loved one pick you up from our office and look after you following treatment, as patients under oral conscious sedation can feel groggy and fatigued, and/or have no memory of their appointment. 

Will I be awake for my appointment?

Patients who only require nitrous oxide are generally awake during their treatment, while oral conscious sedation may cause individuals to fall asleep — sometimes, awakening to have no memory of their appointment. While you may fall asleep under oral conscious sedation, you will still be able to wake up and respond to commands. Our sedation methods do not cause patients to lose consciousness. 

Can I drive home after undergoing sedation dentistry?

Adults placed under the influence of nitrous oxide may be able to drive themselves home after the effects of the sedation have completely worn off. We recommend waiting in our lobby as long as you need to in order to allow feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness to abate before driving home. If you plan to recieve oral conscious sedation, you will not be in driving condition after your appointment and should arrange a ride with a friend or loved one. 

How old do you have to be to get sedation dentistry?

In general, patients of any age can undergo nitrous oxide sedation. Nitrous oxide serves as a common complement to restorative treatments for adults and children alike. According to the American Dental Association, nitrous oxide is considered a very helpful, safe, and effective part of pediatric dentistry. Oral conscious sedation may also be utilized for younger patients, but each person is assessed based on their age, health, and unique needs rather than their age. 

Do I need sedation dentistry?

Sedation dentistry can be a helpful complement to your treatment if your anxiety or fears surrounding the dentist stop you from receiving the care you need to maintain clean, healthy teeth. This is especially true for patients who may have avoided the dentist for years (or even decades) due to life circumstances, or unpleasant experiences in the past. On the other hand, sedation may be necessary during more invasive treatments — such as dental implants, tooth extractions, and wisdom teeth removal — to help you undergo the procedure more comfortably. Each patient is evaluated individually to determine whether sedation is appropriate for their unique treatment plan.

Questions? Please contact Griffiths Smiles at our San Diego-area office and our team would be happy to answer your questions or schedule a consultation.