What to Expect From Oral Conscious Sedation

Sedated Patient Photo

Laughing gas, happy gas, happy air, and twilight sleep. Oral conscious sedation goes by many names, and it's used in numerous procedures, but what is it exactly?

More importantly, what should you expect before you receive it?

Patients often have many questions before experiencing this form of sedation for the first time. It's completely normal to feel a little anxious before receiving it, which is why we put together this helpful guide to give you a better understanding of how it all works.

What is Oral Conscious Sedation?

Oral conscious sedation is a state of relaxed consciousness induced using medication and, on occasion, a local anesthetic. Its main purpose is to reduce pain and discomfort while putting the patient at ease.

This form of sedation is quite common for many procedures, from endoscopes and root canals to even something as routine as a teeth cleaning. Patients who have a low pain tolerance or a bad gag reflex may also receive it to make the procedure easier. The sedative is usually administered as a gas which you inhale through a mask.

Oral conscious sedation has varying degrees of consciousness, from fully aware to a state of semi-conscious awareness. Some patients even drift to sleep. However, dentists can evoke a response when necessary.

The level of consciousness can be regulated by the dosage you're administered.

What are the Side Effects?

While there are a few common side effects of oral conscious sedation, these are typically very minor, such as:

  • Sluggish Reflexes
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Amnesia (Only for the Period of Time You are Sedated)
  • Mild Headache
  • Low Blood Pressure

All of these symptoms should dissipate within 24-hours of sedation as the medication leaves your system. Not all patients experience side effects and the severity of these side effects can vary.

Are There Any Complications?

Complications aren't common with this form of sedation. It is safer than general anesthesia and your vitals are actively monitored throughout the duration of your sedation.

However, it is important that your dentist review your medical history prior to giving you an oral sedative. There are certain health factors that may rule out this option due to an increased risk.

This includes patients with obstructive sleep apnea or who are obese. Both of these health conditions may pose possible complications that make oral conscious sedation not worth the risk.

Also, check your dentist's qualifications. You want to be certain he or she is trained in the sedation medication you're receiving as anesthesia can differ from one drug to another. A dentist should have no problem with answering this question for you.

How Safe is Oral Conscious Sedation?

Overall, this form of anesthesia is relatively safe. While complications can arise, they don't happen often. However, if you are worried about the safety of using this mild anesthetic, do not hesitate to consult your dentist.

He or she will answer any questions you may have as well as provide you with alternatives if any are available.

What Should You Expect?

Below is a breakdown of the sedation process stage-by-stage.

How is it Administered?

Administering the sedative to induce a state of conscious sedation is a painless process. Once seated in the dental chair, you will be given the sedative via a mask.

The mask releases the medication in the form of a gas. It typically takes a few minutes for the sedative to take on its full effect. While you're under oral conscious sedation, your dentist will monitor both your breathing and your heart rate.

Once the dentist confirms the sedative has kicked in, he or she will begin the procedure. During this time, you may not be fully aware of what is taking place.
However, any level of pain or discomfort should be minimal.

What Does the State of Sedation Feel Like, Exactly?

It may be scary to imagine not being aware of what's going on after you "go under". However, negative feelings dissipate under the influence of the medication. It's the reason why many patients request it prior to a procedure that makes them feel anxious.

Most people describe the experience as feeling "tingly", especially in extremities like your arms, legs, palms, and feet. Your breathing will slow, as will your heart rate and blood pressure. You may also feel like the world moves in slow motion.

Your ability to react will be delayed, and you may even find yourself smiling and laughing for no particular reason. This is completely normal. In fact, it's how the name "laughing gas" came into being.

What is the Recovery Process Like?

Depending upon your dosage, it may take up to an hour before you recover from sedation. During this time, your dentist and his or her team will monitor you carefully to ensure your vitals remain stable as they return to their usual state.

Depending on your level of sedation, you may find recovery takes several hours or you may bounce back quick enough to walk out of the dental practice and safely drive yourself home.

However, it is recommended to plan ahead by taking the day off and having a friend or family member take you to and from your appointment just to ensure safety.

Some patients may feel sleepy, nauseous, foggy-minded, or sluggish throughout the rest of the day as the sedative wears off. However, this usually goes away within 24 hours.

You should avoid engaging in any physical activities or operating any heavy equipment while the sedative is still in your system.

Learn More About Our Procedures

Patients curious about oral conscious sedation often have other questions regarding their specific procedure, and that's okay. We encourage questions!

The more our patients understand the process and what's happening, the less anxiety they typically feel. We care about putting our patients at ease, which is why we offer a wealth of information about our procedures online.

If you have additional questions or you're simply a new patient looking to make an appointment at our Plano, Texas dentistry, contact us. We'll be happy to assist you.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.