Types of sedation

Sedation for dental treatment

Sedation is medicine that relaxes you both physically and mentally. There are different ways of having sedation for your dental treatment.

Your dentist will talk to you about the different options, and help you decide which is the best option for you.

Sedation options include:

  • Local anaesthetic
  • Gas and air
  • Sedation into a vein (intravenous)
  • Sedation into your nose (intranasal)
  • Sedation by mouth

Local anaesthetic

Local anaesthetic is an injection into your mouth. It numbs the part of your mouth being treated, so you do not feel any pain. 

The dentist will put a numbing cream on your gum for a couple of minutes before the injection. This makes it much more comfortable.

Many people do not realise they have had an injection.

Local anaesthetic can be used on its own, or with any of the other sedation options. 

Gas and air

Gas and air is a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide that you breathe into your nose through a special nosepiece.

This type of sedation is for people who are mildly to moderately anxious, and are able to breathe through their nose. 

It gives you a pleasant, relaxed feeling. The dental team will talk to you at the same time in a calm and reassuring way. Most people feel warm, floaty and tingly. 

Sedation using gas and air is very safe. You might feel dizzy or light headed at the end of the treatment, but this should only last a few minutes.

Recovery after gas and air

You will be given oxygen to breathe for a couple of minutes after your treatment, to help you recover very quickly.

Most people can drive or return to work the same day. 

Sedation into a vein (intravenous sedation)

Intravenous sedation gives you sedation medicine through a vein in your arm or hand. This makes you feel deeply relaxed.

You will be able to talk to your dental team during the procedure, but most people cannot remember much about their treatment. 

Before the sedation, your blood pressure will be measured.

Intravenous sedation can slow down your breathing. During the treatment your breathing and pulse will be checked, so that you can be given oxygen if you need it.

Recovery after intravenous sedation

Some people take a little time to recover after having intravenous sedation. You will need to stay in the hospital until you can walk by yourself.

It is important that you have someone with you who can take you home and stay with you for the rest of the day. 

You might have some bruising on your hand or arm after the injection. This should go after a few days.

Read more about intravenous sedation. 

Sedation into your nose (intranasal sedation)

Intranasal sedation is given as a squirt of sedation medicine up your nose.

It can sting a little, and might make you sneeze.

This type of sedation is used for people who are very scared of injections (needle phobic), or who cannot stay still to have intravenous sedation.

Once you are relaxed, the dental team might need to give you more medicine through a vein in your arm or hand (intravenous sedation). This will give you a deeper sedation.

Having sedation can slow down your breathing. During the treatment your breathing and pulse will be checked, so that you can be given oxygen if you need it.

Sedation by mouth (oral sedation)

Sedation by mouth is given as a drink that has sedation medicine in.

Once you are relaxed, the dental team might need to give you more medicine through a vein in your arm or hand (intravenous sedation). This will give you a deeper sedation.

This type of sedation is not suitable for a lot of people, because it can take a long time for the sedation to start working and for you to feel relaxed.

Resource number: 2201/VER4

Last reviewed: July 2019

Next review due: July 2022

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns about sedation for dental treatment, contact the Department of Sedation and Special Care Dentistry.

Phone: 020 7188 6066 Monday to Friday, 9am to 4.30pm

You can also contact the dental day surgery unit.

Phone: 020 7188 1810 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Address: 26th Floor, Guy’s Tower, Guy’s Hospital

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