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Sedation Dentistry

It’s crucially important to our dental team that all of our patients receive only the best in personal service. We recognize that not all individuals enjoy receiving dental treatment, and our dentists are pleased to offer sedation dentistry to enhance the comfort of those who visit our practice. Depending on your needs and desired level of sedation, we provide several options that allow you to relax in comfort while your treatment is completed in a very short amount of time. With sedation dentistry, patients at Scripps Center for Dental Care can more comfortably undergo multiple procedures that may require more than one dental specialist, such as a full smile makeover. Our practice offers a full range of sedation dentistry options, including nitrous oxide, oral conscious sedation, and general anesthesia sleep dentistry.

How Can Sedation Dentistry Aid My Treatment?

Sedation dentistry offers a conservative solution to help patients who struggle with dental anxiety or a fear of the dentist (dental phobia). These techniques can also benefit individuals who are simply nervous about their treatment and would like to feel more at ease during their appointment. Sedation dentistry is often useful for patients who:

  • Feel anxiety at the thought of shots, or at the sound of a drill
  • Have a pattern of canceling their dentist appointments at the last minute
  • Avoid semi-annual exams and cleanings due to dental phobia
  • Have a sensitive gag reflex or a low pain threshold

Perhaps the greatest benefit associated with sedation dentistry is that it allows even those with severe dental phobias to undergo the treatment they need without anxiety or discomfort. Dental sedation gives patients the opportunity to drift pleasantly through their appointment, after which they will remember little to nothing of the work that was done. To learn about our different sedation options, please read below and contact us with any questions.

I was really nervous about going to the dentist for the first time in 10 years. But everybody was super nice to me from the moment I walked in. Kathy & Dr. Nick are the best. I’m glad I went.

Kirsten G

June 14, 2014


Nitrous Oxide

Considered one of the safest methods of dental sedation, nitrous oxide gas offers a number of benefits for patients of all ages who experience dental anxiety. Also known as “laughing gas,” this technique uses a blend of nitrous and oxygen, which is administered through a mask that’s worn over the mouth. When you inhale the gas, you should feel a sensation of calm, and you may even feel a bit giggly—effects which should subside quickly after the mask is removed. Nitrous oxide is designed to enhance relaxation during treatment while you remain conscious and in control throughout the procedure. Additionally, you can drive shortly after having nitrous oxide, so there is no need to have a friend or family member take you to and from our office.

Oral Conscious Sedation

For our patients who wish to remain conscious during treatment, Scripps Center for Dental Care is proud to offer a safe and reliable technique for making your dental visits completely comfortable and relaxing without putting you to sleep. Thanks to special training and certification through post-graduate hospital residencies and DOCS (Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation), we can offer the use of mild oral sedatives—also known as oral conscious sedation.

How Oral Conscious Sedation Works

Oral conscious sedation often involves taking medicine the night before an appointment as well as at the start of the appointment the following morning. The medication used will be specific to the individual receiving treatment and will also be based on the length and nature of treatment. When the medicine takes effect, the patient will ease into an anxiety-free state. Our patients who undergo oral conscious sedation remain aware of their surroundings, yet feel calm and relaxed throughout their time in the treatment chair.

Many of our patients find that oral conscious sedation dentistry allows them to undergo dental treatments and procedures they would have never before been able to tolerate. Oral conscious sedation dentistry is an excellent option for individuals whose dental anxiety may only be exacerbated by the use of numbing injections. If you are interested in learning more about sedation dentistry, contact our dental team today.

General Anesthesia Sleep Dentistry

Patients who experience severe dental phobia or who have difficulty understanding and following instructions (such as individuals with special needs) may benefit from the use of general anesthesia (GA). Known as “sleep dentistry,” this approach places the person in a controlled unconscious state for the duration of treatment. Our state-of-the-art practice has the equipment and the skilled dental and medical professionals necessary to provide this advanced option. General anesthesia will be provided in a hospital setting where you can be monitored by our oral surgeon or anesthesiologist throughout the procedure. Once complete, you should have no memory of the experience and will need a friend or family member to drive you home afterwards. As with all of our sedation techniques, a consultation will be necessary prior to your dental appointment to determine the ideal approach based on your individual needs, goals, and medical history.

With general anesthesia, the patient is unable to move or feel pain. This is the same sedation technique used during tonsil removal and many other surgical procedures. Our dentist will provide you with some instructions that will need to be followed prior to the appointment, including not eating or drinking after midnight the day the anesthesia will be dispensed. On the day of the treatment, you will be placed in a deep sleep using medication that is administered intravenously by our experienced dental professionals. Once the procedure is complete, you will undergo a short period of observation before being allowed to return home the same day.

Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), sedation dentistry is considered a safe and integral part of every dental practice when the analgesic is administered in a controlled environment, and under the supervision of a qualified professional. In fact, nitrous oxide and lighter sedation methods have been utilized for decades to increase the comfort of adult patients and children alike. Maximizing your safety during a sedation-assisted treatment starts with ensuring you’re under the care of an accredited dental specialist who can determine the most effective technique for your needs. Other ways to optimize patient safety when administering dental sedation include:

  • Reviewing your medical history and assessing whether you have previously had negative reactions to sedation or anesthesia
  • Determining the most appropriate method of sedation based on your treatment and unique needs
  • Administering the proper dosage of sedation
  • Supervising patients and monitoring vitals (if necessary) throughout the duration of treatment
  • Being prepared to intervene in the extremely rare event of complications

As a practice with a multi-specialty team and two accredited members of the AACD, our dentists have completed the education and training requirements necessary to safely administer dental sedation and anesthesia.

How Much Does Sedation Dentistry Cost?

Sedation fees are generally added to the entire cost of your treatment. For certain services, the cost of nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” may be included in the total price of your procedure. Generally speaking, sedation dentistry costs at Scripps Center for Dental Care are as follows:

  • Nitrous oxide: $145 per unit (billed by time)
  • Oral conscious sedation: $465
  • General anesthesia: $224 per unit (billed by time)

Keep in mind that each patient’s sedation dentistry costs will vary depending on their unique needs and insurance plan. Scripps Center for Dental Care also accepts dental financing from LendingClub® and CareCredit® for qualified patients who would rather pay for their treatment in a series of low monthly installments. Our office would be happy to answer any questions you have regarding sedation costs, or our accepted payment methods. Please call (858) 535-8300 for more information.

Additional Sedation Dentistry FAQs

Who should provide sedation dentistry?

Sedation dentistry should be administered by an experienced dentist certified by DOCS, short for the Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation, or a dental anesthesiologist. DOCS Education is the leading institution for the provision of continuing education courses in sedation dentistry. With a DOCS-certified dentist, you can feel confident that your treatment is being conducted by a qualified provider trained to manage sedation levels according to your unique needs.

How do I know how much sedation I need?

If you’re interested in complementing your treatment with sedation, you will receive a consultation prior to your procedure to help our dentists get an understanding of your unique needs and anxiety levels. In cases of nitrous oxide sedation and general anesthesia, the number of units required to ensure your comfort generally depends on the anticipated length of your procedure, the extent of dental work necessary, and other details of your treatment plan.

Will I be awake during my appointment?

Most patients are awake and conscious during their treatment, with the exception of individuals receiving general anesthesia. For those receiving nitrous oxide or oral conscious sedation, the effects should induce a very relaxed and calm state of mind. You will be aware of your surroundings and able to follow instructions, but should simply drift through your treatment. General anesthesia renders patients in a controlled but unconscious state.

Will I be able to drive home after sedation dentistry?

This depends on the type of sedation administered, but in general, patients given more mild sedation options are able to return home by themselves. While those who receive nitrous oxide can drive themselves home after their appointment, individuals under oral conscious sedation may need to be picked up by a friend or loved one. The effects of general anesthesia may cause dizziness, lightheadedness, or other lingering symptoms after a patient wakes up, therefore it’s required that you arrange a ride from our office.

How long will the effects of my sedation last?

With nitrous oxide (laughing gas), the effects should subside soon after you remove the mask and start breathing oxygen again. Oral conscious sedation sedation can last between two to eight hours on average, but this timeframe varies from patient to patient. The effects of general anesthesia also last for several hours after treatment and can cause deep sedation. That said, it’s generally recommended to have a friend or loved one available to monitor you for the first 24 hours after receiving anesthesia.

Learn More about Sedation Dentistry

If you or a member of your family suffers from severe dental anxiety, or if you would simply prefer to be as relaxed as possible during your treatment, please contact Scripps Center for Dental Care to learn more about sedation dentistry. Our La Jolla office proudly serves communities throughout San Diego.

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