Comparing Dental Sedation and Anesthesia

Mar 25, 2022
If you feel nervous when thinking about an upcoming dentist appointment, you are not alone. More than one-fourth of the population suffers from dental fear.

If you feel nervous when thinking about an upcoming dentist appointment, you are not alone. More than one-fourth of the population suffers from dental fear. But dental professionals have been training and developing ways to keep patients relaxed in their office, including medicinal options.

Dentists now offer sedation that is specially designed to provide a calming sensation before dental work. These treatments differ from anesthesia, another tool that dentists might use when administering dental solutions. Dr. R. Edward Hudgens, a dentist serving patients in Charleston, SC, describes the different sedation dentistry treatments available in his office and how they compare to anesthesia.

Comparing Dental Sedation and Anesthesia


A local anesthetic is not a form of sedation, but it does keep dental patients comfortable during a dental procedure. The medicine is administered via injection into the mouth where it will block specific nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.

This allows dentists to complete treatments like removing tooth decay or preparing teeth for crowns or veneers without discomfort on behalf of the patient. The patient may feel numbness in their mouth for several hours after receiving a local anesthetic, but this effect will fade on its own. It will not impact an individual’s sense of awareness at any point during the procedure.


Sedation dentistry refers to medication from your dentist created to keep patients feeling relaxed during a dental procedure. You can discuss the different options available at your dentist’s office, as they may vary in method and intensity.

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is given to patients through a nasal mask. It induces a calming sensation that lasts for as long as the patient inhales the medicine through the mask. Patients can return home on their own without lingering side effects from this sedation option.

Dentists can also offer an oral sedation treatment that features a tablet that a patient takes prior to their arrival at the dentist’s office. The patient will remain conscious with this medicine, but they will likely have little awareness of their surroundings. Dentists recommend that these patients arrange for a lift home at the conclusion of their appointment as they may feel groggy for a short time afterward.


General anesthesia is a type of medicine that puts a patient to sleep throughout the duration of a dental procedure. The medication is often delivered intravenously and may leave the patient feeling disoriented when they awake after their dental work. Dentists usually reserve this option for invasive dental procedures, like oral surgery, or for patients with extreme amounts of anxiety regarding dental work.

Ask Your Dentist About Sedation Availability in Charleston, SC

Dr. Hudgens offers sedation dentistry treatments and other general dental services to patients in Charleston, SC. Our practice specializes in cosmetic and restorative dentistry as well, including periodontal care, for patients of all ages. To schedule a consultation or appointment with our teams of experts, contact our staff by phone at 843.418.9354 or reach our office online.