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Oral Sedation

For some, dental treatment is no big deal. Nothing to look forward to but nothing to worry about. For others, it's a very big deal.  We find about a third of our patients are completely relaxed--sometimes even falling asleep--during treatment with just local anesthetic (numbing). Another third consider dental treatment fairly anxiety-inducing but get through it--albeit with some trepidation. The remaining third are so stressed by the mere thought of dental work, they can lose sleep thinking about it. Some literally break into tears just talking to us about it. Those in the last and some in the second group often opt to have their treatment performed with oral sedation.

What is Oral Conscious Sedation?

Oral conscious sedation is the use of sleeping/sedative type medications taken orally (as opposed to IV sedation) to relax you during your dental treatment.

Is it required for root canal treatment?

Although required for surgical procedures, it is completely optional for root canal treatment. With or without sedation, we provide gentle and compassionate care.  We make oral sedation available for those who desire it and have no preference if you choose to use it. The exception being anxiety concerns that would compromise our ability to perform ideal treatment. 

Who should consider using it?

Anyone who:


  • is fearful of dentistry

  • is anxious or has difficulty relaxing during dental treatment

  • has had past bad experiences with dentistry

  • has a strong gag reflex

  • has had difficulty numbing in the past

  • is claustrophobic with a dental dam or dental treatment in general

  • has difficulty swallowing during treatment

  • would have a difficult time lying still for an extended period of time

  • has a small mouth

  • is having a molar treated (increases most of the above)

  • has a "hot" tooth (extremely inflamed/painful teeth can be more difficult to numb--particularly lower molars)


Would I be unconscious?

Unlike general anesthesia or IV sedation, there is no loss of consciousness with oral sedation. While most people sleep deeply during treatment, we can wake you by calling your name or tapping your shoulder. Additionally, if you are having any discomfort, you are able to communicate this to us and are also able to use the restroom if needed. 



Is oral sedation safe?

Yes.  In addition to the required training and an Oral Conscious Sedation Permit issued by the State Board of California, electronic monitoring is used throughout treatment and Dr. Carman has safely sedated more than 5,000 patients over the past three decades.

Is there an additional fee for sedation?

There is no fee for oral sedation in our office.  

Are there other considerations to treatment with sedation?

You need a trusted driver to bring you and take you home (a taxi or Uber cannot be used). Most people sleep the rest of the afternoon and you cannot drive or return to work the day of your appointment.

What are the benefits of oral sedation?

  • your appointment seems shorter

  • you are more relaxed--most patients sleep deeply during the appointment

  • easier to achieve complete numbing, particularly for those who have had difficulty numbing in the past

  • strong gag reflex eliminated or greatly reduced

  • eliminates or greatly reduces the discomfort many people have with a "dental dam"

  • reduces salivary production and the difficulty some have swallowing during treatment

  • amnesia: the following day there is little recollection of the procedure 

  • allows for more focused treatment for those with high anxiety about dental treatment

Oral Sedation and Root Canal Treatment

Root canal treatment has long been a dreaded procedure and humorously--and not so humorously--used as the standard by which to compare unpleasant tasks in life (hear the remark by President Obama in the Root Canal Safety video!).


While modern techniques have conquered pain during root canal treatment, it persists in being an unpleasant procedure for many due to the discomfort of a rubber dam, a mouth prop holding your mouth open, difficulty swallowing, a feeling of claustrophobia, and lying still with your mouth wide open for an extended period of time.  These become non-issues with oral sedation. What used to be a prolonged period of discomfort for some, becomes a relaxed appointment of listening to music on headphones while drifting off to sleep. Even for people anxious about dental treatment, there is simply no reason for modern root canal treatment to be the misery it once was in the past.