Does Oral Sedation Cause Side Effects?

If the idea of dental work makes you nervous, you’re not alone. Up to 20% of Americans experience dental anxiety, which can lead to skipping dental work and making your dental troubles worse. 

At the private practice of Robert F. Wilcox, DMD, in Butte, Montana, we want all of our patients to feel comfortable and confident in their dental care. For our patients with extra anxiety, we offer oral sedation. During oral sedation, Dr. Wilcox uses medication to help keep you calm before and during your procedure.

There are different oral sedation types, and the right type for you depends on several factors, including your:

For example, if you need to have a complex and lengthy procedure, Dr. Wilcox may choose a deeper level of sedation to keep you comfortable. But if you’re anxious about a routine cavity filling, he may opt for a lighter type of sedation. 

One question many of our patients have about oral sedation involves the side effects. To help you feel more comfortable about dental sedation and any side effects, here’s a closer look at the types of sedation — oral and otherwise — that our practice uses and what’s involved with each.  

Anti-anxiety medications

Dr. Wilcox sometimes prescribes an anti-anxiety medication for you to take before your procedure. It helps you relax enough to keep your appointment and get into the chair. 

These medications include options like diazepam or temazepam, which decrease your anxiety by binding with the receptors in the brain responsible for fear and calming down brain activity in that region.

Side effects

First, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t mix these medications with other drugs and alcohol, so be sure to give Dr. Wilcox your complete medical history. Side effects include a drop in blood pressure and drowsiness. 

If you take one of these medications, arrange for a ride to and from your procedure because you shouldn't drive. 

Nitrous oxide

Nitrous oxide is a gas that you breathe in to keep you relaxed while you’re having dental work completed. This colorless and odorless inhalant works by slowing your physical reaction time, giving you a calm feeling. 

Side effects

This minimal form of sedation is harmless and doesn’t have any side effects when used properly under the supervision of a trained dental professional, like Dr. Wilcox. And it wears off quickly, enabling you to drive yourself to and from your appointment.   

Intravenous (IV) sedation

If you have severe dental anxiety, Dr. Wilcox can use intravenous sedation, which puts you to sleep during your procedure. The medications used for IV sedation are strong and enter your bloodstream directly, so it takes effect quickly. 

Dr. Wilcox monitors the sedation level and makes adjustments as needed as the procedure progresses. 

Side effects

Most people tolerate IV sedation well, but it comes with side effects. The most noticeable side effect is grogginess or drowsiness once you wake up. Other common side effects include:

You must arrange for a ride home after IV sedation and should plan to rest for a few hours after your procedure as the medication continues to wear off. 

Some people have serious reactions to IV sedation medications, although rare. If you notice any of the following, seek medical help: 

Combination approach

In a combined approach to sedation, Dr. Wilcox may use oral sedative medication (anti-anxiety medicine) with nitrous oxide to help you stay relaxed. He also uses local anesthetics to make sure you don’t feel any pain during your procedure. 

Side effects

The side effects are the same as the side effects of the anti-anxiety medications. While the nitrous oxide wears off quickly, everyone metabolizes the oral medications differently, and you must arrange for a ride to and from your appointment. 

Do you have more questions about oral sedation and how it may work for you? Contact our office in Butte, Montana, to learn more.

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