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Fear Going to The Dentist? Sleep Dentistry May Be Right for You.

Do you experience anxiety or fear about going to the dentist?

Does the thought of sitting in the dentist’s chair make you cringe or want to run for the hills?

Don't worry - you're not alone.

According to the National Library of Medicine, it is estimated that 36% of the population suffers from fear and anxiety about going to the dentist, with 12% reporting extreme fear (1).

If you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from fear of going to the dentist, there’s hope!

Many dentists offer sleep dentistry (also known as sedation dentistry and relaxation dentistry) services to help make your experiences at the dentist more comfortable and anxiety-free.

So what is sleep dentistry, and how do I know if I’m a good candidate?

In this short article, we’ll cover:

  • What sleep dentistry is 
  • The three different types of sleep dentistry 
  • How to find sleep dentistry near you

What Is Sleep Dentistry?

Sleep dentistry (i.e. relaxation dentistry, sedation dentistry) uses medication to help patients feel more relaxed and comfortable during their dental visits and procedures (2).

Sleep dentistry can be used for anything - from more complicated procedures to an appointment for a simple dental cleaning.

Sleep dentistry can be a good fit for anyone who:

  • Experiences fear and anxiety about going to the dentist
  • Has had traumatic past experiences with a dental visit
  • Struggles with the smells and noises of the dentist’s office
  • Desires to have a more comfortable dental treatment
  • Feels self-conscious about their teeth
  • Has sensitive teeth, a strong gag reflex, or has difficulty going numb
  • Has a lower threshold for pain tolerance
  • Requires a more complex dental treatment

There are three different types of sleep dentistry - nitrous oxide, oral conscious sedation, and IV sedation.  

A good dentist will spend time with you and get to know you, review your medical history, and understand your dental fears.

You’ll work together to determine which type of sleep dentistry best fits you to help make you feel comfortable and reduce your fear and anxiety.

Types of Sleep Dentistry

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, is the mildest form of sedation (4, 5).

Through a mask that is placed over your nose, you inhale a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen.

Its effects are almost instantaneous - you'll feel calm, serene, and relaxed before you know it.

The gas’ effects wear off quickly, usually in about 3 - 5 minutes.

This makes it the only form of sleep dentistry where you may be able to drive yourself home immediately afterward (4).

Oral Conscious Sedation

Oral conscious sedation involves taking an anti-anxiety medication, similar to Valium (7).

It is the most common method of sleep dentistry and the oral medication is usually taken about one hour prior to your appointment or procedure (4).

The medication decreases activity in your brain that controls anxiety and fear. It is especially effective to help keep you calm and reduce sudden movements you may make during your dental work (4).

The medication will cause you to feel drowsy and less aware of your surroundings, but you’ll remain awake. If dosing off occurs, most patients are able to wake up with a gentle shake (1).

How long this form of sleep dentistry lasts depends on the patient and the dosage, but typically its effects last between 2 - 4 hours (6).

When using this method of sleep dentistry, you will want to arrange for a trusted person to bring you to your appointment and drive you home.

IV Sedation

IV sedation is the heaviest form of sleep dentistry (4).

It uses an IV tube to administer a sedative directly to your bloodstream, causing a near-immediate effect (6). During the procedure, you’ll be continuously monitored by your dentist and trained professionals to ensure your safety.

During IV sedation, you won’t actually lose consciousness or go fully to sleep.

During the appointment, you'll be able to communicate and respond to questions asked by your dentist.

Afterward, however, you will have little to no memory of the appointment or procedure (6).

This form of sleep dentistry is great for people who:

  • Have significant fear of the dentist and/or undergoing dental procedures
  • Need multiple procedures done at the same time - the IV sedative allows your dentist to work longer, so you are less likely to need multiple appointments (4).

Just like the method of oral conscious sedation, when using IV sedation, you’ll want to have a trusted person bring you to your appointment and take you home after.

How Can I Find Sleep Dentistry Near Me?

If you live in central Ohio, you’re in luck!

At Greentree Dental Group, we are industry leaders in sleep dentistry, or what we like to call relaxation dentistry, located right here in Columbus.

Get in touch with our office - our compassionate team of experts is ready to help you get the care you need.

We understand that each patient is unique. We spend time getting to know each of our patients, understand their anxiety and fears, and create a plan that feels good and fits them best.

In addition to providing excellent dental care, making your experience comfortable, relaxing, and anxiety-free is our top priority.

Fear of going to the dentist is extremely common, so remember - you are not alone in your dental fears.

If you have fear and anxiety about going to the dentist, you understandably may be tempted to avoid going to the dentist altogether, but it’s important not to do so.

Having good oral health plays a vital role in your total wellness and skipping regular dentist appointments can lead to significant health problems beyond just your teeth and gums in the future (4).

At Greentree Dental, let us help you get the high-quality dental care you need and help reduce the fear and anxiety holding you back.

Contact our office today!


  1. National Library of Medicine
  2. Web MD: Sedation Dentistry
  3. Liberty Commons Family Dental
  4. West Chester Dental Arts
  5. Mouth Healthy by the American Dental Association
  6. Eliminate Dental Anxiety With Sedation Dentistry
  7. Valium: Usage, Side Effects, and More
  8. Ohio: Find It Here
  9. Greentree Dental Group: Dentist in Upper Arlington, Ohio

Contact Us

We look forward to hearing from you. Call 614.459.5511 or request an appointment online to get started.