Inhalation sedation means that the sedation is given as a gas. Anxiety is reduced by breathing nitrous oxide with oxygen, given as a mixed gas. The dentist will give you the gas through a nosepiece. This will not cover your mouth.

It is usual to have two appointments. The first appointment will be for an assessment when your dental treatment under sedation will be planned and discussed with you. The dental treatment under sedation will take place at the second and subsequent appointments. If the treatment is needed as an emergency, it may be possible to have some treatment under sedation at the first appointment.

It is important that you let the dentist know your medical history and any medicines that you are taking.

If you think you may be pregnant, you need to let the dentist know. You may need to come back to have your treatment at another time. You should let your dentist know if you are breastfeeding.

The dentist will confirm whether you need to restrict what you eat or drink on the day of treatment. 

If you have any questions or are unclear about having your sedation, then do not hesitate to ask your dentist.

As you receive the gas via a nosepiece, you may get a feeling of warmth throughout your body as well as some mild tingling and light-headedness. You will stay awake and in control of all your reflexes, such as coughing.

Once you are sedated with the gas, the dentist may use local analgesia (pain relief that numbs the site of the dental treatment). Local anaesthetic as a paste is sometimes used to numb the site of the treatment. Any injection that you may need can then be given through this numbed area to reduce the chance of any discomfort.

After the treatment

You are unlikely to have any side effects, such as feeling sick or headache. At the end of the procedure, the dentist will give you some extra oxygen to make you feel more alert. This will speed up your recovery from the effects of the sedation.

You will spend time in the recovery area after the treatment is over. You will be checked by the dentist or an appropriate member of the dental team before you go home. It is not always necessary to have someone with you following this type of simple inhalation sedation. You may be advised not to drive a car, ride a bicycle or operate machinery for up to 2 hours following your treatment.

You will be given information relating to any local analgesia and the dental treatment you have received. The dental team will also advise you about any medicines you may need while recovering from the treatment. You will be given a telephone number of who to contact if you have any problems as a result of the treatment.

Reprinted and adapted from :

Standards for Conscious Sedation in the Provision of Dental Care

Report of the Intercollegiate Advisory Committee for Sedation in Dentistry 2015

The Dental Faculties of the Royal Colleges of surgeons and the Royal College of Anaesthetists