What Is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry uses relaxing medication to help patients overcome dental anxiety. Your medication will help you arrive at your dental appointment feeling relaxed and comfortable. You will not be asleep during your dental appointment; you will be awake and able to respond to instructions.

You will need to have someone drive you to and from your dental appointment. Sedation dentistry has an amnesiac effect, so you won’t remember much about your appointment, which can help you overcome your anxiety about future appointments. Because tension increases your discomfort, you will likely experience less discomfort after an appointment than your previous dental experiences.

Who Is a Candidate for Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry can help people who experience:

  • Dental fear or anxiety
  • Negative reactions to certain sounds or smells in the dentist’s office
  • Discomfort from sitting in the dental chair or holding their mouth open
  • Difficulty sitting through long dental treatments
  • Strong gag reactions
  • Specific anxiety brought on by certain procedures
  • Inability to get numb with typical dental anesthesia
  • Excess pain during or after a dental visit
  • Sore jaw, stiff neck, or other tense muscles from a dental visit
  • Difficulty sleeping before a dental appointment

Many people don’t realize that a lot of these are related to dental anxiety. People might think they can’t get numb or have excess pain because of their mouth or their teeth, but it’s partly in their brain, whose stress contributes to sensitivity. The same is true of excessive gagging, which is part of a stress response to dental work. And if you tense up during an appointment, it can make for sore muscles wherever your body tends to store its stress.

The medications we use are also very safe and rarely interact with other medications you are taking, but you should talk to Dr. Rice about prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements you are taking. You should also mention any prior allergic reactions to medications and whether you have a heart condition or sleeping disorder, such as sleep apnea.

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Types of Sedation Dentistry

Oral Conscious Sedation

With oral conscious sedation, you’ll take a pill that induces a relaxed state before you come to our office. You’ll be conscious and able to respond to questions and requests by the dentist, but you’ll be immune to the things that cause anxiety at the dentist. Not only that, but you won’t remember most of your appointment, so you won’t have your anxiety reinforced by negative experiences.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Oral conscious sedation is the most popular type of sedation dentistry because it offers patients many advantages, including:

  • It’s just a pill, so it’s very easy to take
  • No needles or masks
  • Can take effect before you come to the office
  • It is effective for most people
  • It is safe for most people
  • It’s long-lasting
  • It’s inexpensive
  • It causes you to forget the appointment

Truthfully, there aren’t many drawbacks to oral sedation, but it does have a few. The primary drawback is that it isn’t always easy to tell what dosage of medication would work best for an individual, so it may take some trial and error. It’s also hard to extend the effectiveness of oral sedation, so if it isn’t lasting long enough for your procedure, you may feel some anxiety. Typically, though, the effects last for several hours, so this isn’t normally a concern.

Is oral conscious sedation right for me?

Oral conscious sedation is generally safe, but it has elevated risks for certain groups of people. Of course, people who are allergic to the medications used are not good candidates. Also, people with small body sizes often have difficulty getting a proper dose. Some drugs may also interact negatively with sedation drugs. So, if you have liver or kidney problems, oral conscious sedation medication may be harmful. People with sleep apnea may also be poor candidates.

Call (949) 551-5902 or make an appointment online to learn more about oral conscious sedation.

Nitrous Oxide Inhaled Sedation

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a colorless, odorless gas that has been used for dental sedation and pain relief since the 18th century. It is sometimes called “laughing gas” because one common side effect is that people can feel not only relaxed but also euphoric, which makes them laugh. Laughing gas stimulates certain modulators in the spinal cord that reduce the transmission of pain signals. It produces sedation by the same mechanism as benzodiazepines, the most common oral conscious sedation medication.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Nitrous oxide has many potential benefits for sedation dentistry patients, including:

  • Reduction or elimination of dental anxiety
  • Additional reduction of pain
  • Encourages positive associations with a dental visit
  • Has immediate effect (effective within five minutes)
  • Can be continued as long as necessary
  • Wears off quickly (people recover within five minutes)

Because of these benefits, it is often described as being an ideal sedation dentistry solution, but there are some factors to consider that make it less than perfect. Some of the reasons why this is not perfect for everyone include:

  • Can’t relieve anxiety before dental appointment
  • Offers only mild sedation—may not be adequate for you
  • Pain relief wears off quickly—some experience more discomfort after a procedure
  • Some people do not like the euphoric effect
  • Isn’t appropriate for people with respiratory problems

Despite its drawbacks, inhaled sedation makes sense for many people. Talk to a sedation dentist in Orange County about nitrous oxide as an option to overcome your anxiety.

Is nitrous oxide right for me?

Nitrous oxide is also generally safe, but it’s not a good choice for people with respiratory problems that can be triggered by irritation from the gas. If you have compromised health or certain nutrient deficiencies, nitrous oxide may not be the right choice. In addition, people with generally low blood oxygen levels are probably not good candidates for nitrous oxide.

Natural Ways To Reduce Anxiety At The Dentist

Not everyone can benefit from drug-free sedation dentistry, but for some people, it’s ideal. Here are some ways people in Irvine reduce dental anxiety without oral conscious sedation or nitrous oxide.

Professional Psychology Techniques

Dental anxiety that is keeping you from making dental appointments are a major concern, and many psychologists can help you address your dental anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one approach to dental anxiety that has had a lot of success in reducing people’s anxiety without medication. This practical technique gives you strategies to address and control your medication, and it has been proven to help people overcome their anxiety to make more dental appointments.

Visualization Techniques, Meditation, and More

There are other approaches to controlling dental anxiety. You can practice these on your own or with the assistance of a coach, yogi, or alternative health professional.

  • Visualization is a common approach to stress, and many people find it quite helpful. You don’t just think of yourself as being someplace else or doing something else; you use special steps and strategies to help your mind place itself there. There are self-help guides that you can use and coaches who can help you master this.
  • Meditation is a similar approach. You focus on breathing and positive emotions to prevent negative thoughts. Meditation takes practice, so you’ll have to build up your meditation time for this approach to be effective.
  • Acupuncture and other alternative medicine techniques may be useful in suppressing dental anxiety or related symptoms. Acupuncture, for example, has been proven to be a significant remedy for a strong gag reflex.

If you would like to learn more about your drug-free sedation dentistry options in Orange County, call (949) 551-5902 or make an appointment online.

What type of sedation dentistry is right for you? Talk with Dr. Rice in Irvine, CA. He can help you decide which type of sedation dentistry will match your anxiety level, your wellness, and the type of service you’re receiving.

Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?

mature woman resting on her couch at homeIn general, sedation dentistry is a highly safe approach to calming your dental anxiety so you can get important dental procedures and/or the cosmetic dentistry you desire. It’s so safe that healthy adults don’t really have to worry about the risks other than making sure they know if they are allergic to the type of medication used and follow the instructions of their sedation dentist.

Before we perform any sedation dentistry, we’ll make sure to get a full medical history so we know of any health concerns that may affect your candidacy for sedation.

For some people, sedation dentistry isn’t just safe; it’s recommended for your safety. People with high levels of anxiety and health conditions with attacks triggered by anxiety are recommended sedation when visiting our Irvine dental office. This includes:

  • Heart disease
  • Asthma and related respiratory conditions (though these may be aggravated by inhaled sedation)
  • Epilepsy

However, it’s important to tell your dentist about medications or other treatments you are already taking for your condition because they may interact with sedation techniques. Do you have additional questions about the safety of sedation dentistry? Please get in touch with Rice Dentistry in Irvine today.

How to Choose a Sedation Dentist

Sedation dentistry is very safe when used properly, but as with all medications, risk can increase if a dentist is not properly trained. You want to make sure your dentist has received training in sedation dentistry and has considerable experience in using the technique with his patients.

Dentist qualified to administer sedation?

Dr. Rice

Your Dentist

Treating patients with sedation dentistry for over 20 years.Yes


Highly trained team of hygienists, assistants and other professional with years of experience (that truly love their work, enjoy helping patients and are a joy to be around).Yes


Certified by the California State Board for Oral Sedation (permit on file).Yes


Works with Board Certified Anesthesiologists when using IV and General (over 20 years).Yes


Makes it an absolute priority to be a leading expert in sedation.Yes


Never takes chances. Never takes risks.Yes


Routinely treats patients with sedation, not just once in a while.Yes


Experienced in complex treatment, including cosmetic dentistry, dental implants surgery and reconstruction, bite problems (TMJ).Yes


Sedation dentist, Scott L. Rice, has certification from the Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation (DOCS) for sedation dentistry. He has considerable experience helping people overcome dental anxiety.

If you’re in Irvine and would like to talk to Dr. Rice about his training and experience or learn how he can help you overcome your dental anxiety, please schedule an appointment at Rice Dentistry today.

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Why Do We Fear the Dentist?

Dental fear is very common. Depending on the study you look at, high levels of dental fears range from 10-20%. Considering that dentists are contributing to your good health and are highly trained medical professionals, what makes us so afraid of them?

It turns out there are many potential causes of dental fear.

  1. Pain: Many who experience dental fear are afraid of the potential pain that may come with a dental appointment. They worry that even a check-up could come with significant discomfort. You can be sure that your Irvine dentist takes every precaution to ensure your comfort and not cause any undo pain.
  2. Loss of control: People can feel as if they aren’t in control when they’re at the dental office. That’s why it’s so important to choose a dentist you can trust, like Dr. Rice.
  3. Previous bad experiences: Some with dental fear had bad experiences with a dentist as a child or young adult. Often this was with older dentists who might have been practicing dentistry that seems quite ancient compared with today’s practices.
  4. Trauma and stress: Many with dental fear have been generally hurt in their lives which makes visiting the dentist challenging. You may be a soldier suffering from PTSD, a car accident survivor, a victim of domestic violence, or someone who suffered abuse as a child. You could also have psychological conditions that are responsible for your anxiety.
  5. Embarrassment: People may feel uncomfortable going to the dentist because their mouth is a very intimate part of their body, and they don’t like the thought of having a dentist work on it. You may also feel embarrassed because of poor oral health. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more embarrassed a person is, the more they avoid the dentist, and the more they avoid the dentist, the more embarrassed they are about the state of their teeth. Visit your Irvine dentist regularly to avoid feeling embarrassed about your teeth.

Relieve Dental Anxiety in Irvine, CA

If you experience dental anxiety or fear, call (949) 551-5902 or make an appointment online with Dr. Rice. He can help you get the dentistry treatments you need or want without feeling anxious.