Patients fearful of the dentist’s chair may benefit from oral sedation dentistry. This medical procedure is a method of inducing calm and relaxation in anxious patients who may have developed a fear of dental offices due to a previous traumatic experience involving excessive pain or mental anguish.

Oral sedation dentistry involves the administration of anti-anxiety or hypnotic drugs that help the patient unwind. In some cases, depending on the medication used, the patient may even experience memory loss of the doctor visit. The lack of unpleasant memories may subsequently make future appointments less traumatic, mentally and emotionally, and ease trepidation. At the same time, the patient’s level of relaxation enables the practitioner to complete involved procedures more quickly.

Some of the most common medications used may include name brand or generic versions of Valium, Xanax and Halcion, among others. These drugs fall under the classification of benzodiazepines, a hypnotic. They are controlled substances — only legally available by prescription – that allow the patient to remain conscious. Sometimes, an antihistamine or sleeping pill may also be prescribed to ensure a good night’s sleep for the patient before the dental procedure. A practitioner may determine a patient is best served by beginning treatment up to 24 hours prior to the appointment, or in the office just before the procedure begins.

The authority to administer benzodiazepines and other medications to achieve minimal or moderate sedation requires a practitioner to obtain special licensing. Practitioners with a Level 1 Permit can prescribe a single oral sedation medication, while those with a Level 2 Permit are authorized to prescribe more than one medication in increments. Level 1 Permit holders are able to combine the oral drug with nitrous gas.