Anesthesia And Sedation: Fixing The Dilemma When Visiting Your Dentist

Visits to the dentists are often dreaded. Even common dental procedures like getting a dental crown or implanting a bridge seem like a herculean task to people, especially children.

Some dental procedures can be painful. Making the patient unconscious by making use of certain medicines has increasingly been proposed as a possible way out.

Sedation and Anesthesia are two medical procedures often used to make a person unconscious in order to save them from any pain due to the impending operation.

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However, these two terms are often used in a confusing fashion and a majority of the people are misinformed about them.

Let’s have a detailed look at these two terms and other aspects of the whole process of ‘making a person unconscious’  –


Sedation is defined as a significant reduction in pain, irritability and agitation by giving a strong or mild dosage of sedative drugs to the patient.

It is done generally in order to facilitate easy and painless execution of a dental procedure or diagnosis. In other words ‘Sedation’ is a condition where the patient is partially unconscious.

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Under the effect of sedation, the patient may or may not respond to any external stimuli. However, they are unaware of their surroundings otherwise and cannot figure out what’s going on around them. Additionally, the patient doesn’t feel any pain.

Generally, patients under the effect of sedative drugs can use their sense organs. For instance, they can open their eyes or move their hands if instructed to. Sedation is nothing but a kind of ‘light sleep’.

Its only purpose is to keep the patient unconscious for a stipulated interval of time. Depending on the dosage of the sedative given, sedation can be minimal, moderate or deep. Further, dental procedures involving the use of oral sedatives and drugs is called ‘Oral Sedation Dentistry’.


When a patient is under the effect of anesthesia, they are in a state of total unconsciousness. They are unable to respond to any external stimulus and are completely unaware of their surroundings. Anesthesia is a temporary state of loss of senses.

Dental anesthesia is a term having a wide domain. It falls under the domain of anesthesia and further includes local anesthetics, sedation and, general anesthesia. General anesthesia completely suppresses the activity of the central nervous system and makes the person completely unconscious.

A patient under general anesthesia cannot be brought back to senses even using painful stimulus. Although for a wide range of dental purposes, local anesthesia is sufficient, many dentists tend to choose one of sedation and general anesthesia.

Where Does The Difference Lie?

Anesthesia is administered with a goal to send the patient into a state of total hypnosis, analgesia and muscle relaxation. Contrary to sedation, anesthesia makes it impossible for the patient to move. Sedative drugs, on the other hand, are generally given to the patient to relieve them of the anxiety of the impending operation.

The drugs reduce the memories related to the procedure and the clinic, in general, thus preventing the patient from any kind of pain or trauma. ODS (Oral Dental Sedation) is the most common method of sedation used these days even ez io needles . It is preferred as it is the easiest to administer, most effective and doesn’t involve the usage of any piece of equipment.

Moreover, it has a lower cost. Whereas, anesthesia involves the usage of a dental syringe and is not preferred much. The anesthetic solution is injected into the patient’s body.  Nausea and vomiting are the common side effects.

What To Choose?                               

Choosing one out of sedation and anesthesia is a subjective decision and involves the assessment of a number of factors. The drugs used for sedation or anesthesia must not have any side effects on the patient.

The drug should be decided depending on the medical history of the patient. Besides, if the patient suffers from any specific ailments, they must mention it to the doctor. As anesthesia involves the use of equipment like dental syringes, it is not advisable to use with patients suffering from dental trauma or having increased levels of anxiety. Oral dental sedation should be preferred here.

It can safely be concluded that both – sedation and anesthesia have their own advantages and disadvantages. Selecting one out of the two can be a difficult task.

It must be done after proper consultation with the dentist taking care of factors like the medical history, mental state and age of the patient.

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