How Long Does Dental Sedation Last?

Posted on: July 16, 2018

Dental Sedation is a treatment option for people who have anxiety or difficulty undergoing dental procedures and oral surgery. While effective and safe, you may be wondering how long dental sedation lasts. People may not even realize there are different forms of sedation. Below is the answer to the question and more information about dental sedation.

Common forms of dental sedation

First, one of the most common forms of dental sedation is nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” typically takes a few minutes to go into effect and lasts until someone stops the gas flow. Once the flow of nitrous oxide completely stops, it takes several minutes afterward for the patient to recover to a semi-normal state. Afterward, patients may feel slightly disoriented but will return to a normal state in a quicker fashion than other dental sedation methods.

Oral sedation

For methods of dental sedation in pill form (known as “oral sedation”), patients take the sedation the night before the scheduled office visit or at a scheduled time several hours before arriving at an appoint. Upon waking or when the drug begins to take effect, you will feel drowsy and disoriented, which makes the job of the oral surgeon easier (i.e. suppresses the gag reflex, quells anxiety, suppresses pain responses, etc.).

However, these methods of sedation typically last long after the procedure, anywhere from 2 to 8 hours. The type of drug administered will ultimately determine how long the period of dental sedation will last. Many patients experience an amnesic effect from oral medications, with many patients reporting that they do not remember ever being at the oral surgeon’s office.

Common oral sedation medications include:

  • Valium (Diazepam) – Since the 1960s, this popular drug has an extremely long half-life and is used for appointments that require extensive dentistry

  • Halcion (Triazolam) – Well known as a treatment for insomnia, this drug can be used in conjunction with an antihistamine.

  • Sonata (Zaleplon) – Similar to Halcion (Triazolam)

  • Ativan (Lorazepam) – Commonly prescribed for anxiety, it is used for appointments that are longer than 2 hours.

  • Vistaril (Hydroxyzine) – Works for anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), but doesn’t have amnesic properties.

  • Versed (Midazolam) – This has a very short duration, useful for short appointments and simple procedures

Before taking any of these medications, it is absolutely important that you discuss the side effects and drug interactions you may experience with your oral surgeon. Additionally, those who take any of these medications are advised to have an escort to provide them transportation and look out for their well-being until the drugs wear off.

Following the procedure

Most patients are able to return to their normal activity within 24 hours of being administered the drug. Of course, everyone has different reactions to dental sedation. Some people, especially those who are younger or are in better health, may metabolize the drugs more efficiently, resulting in a shorter duration.

Conversely, those who are in poorer health or who are older may have dental sedation lasting longer. A good rule of thumb is to allow a full 24 hours after the procedure for the full effects of dental sedation to wear off. Patients need to also make sure to allow a recovery period afterward to ensure that the effects of the drug are out of their system. This includes operating heavy machinery, driving, or engaging in any rigorous physical activity.

For more sedation dentistry information or to schedule an appointment with Desert Mountain Dental, request an appointment in our Tucson dental office here: https://www.desertmountaindental.com. Or call us at (520) 336-9315.


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