In the field of dentistry, practitioners use conscious sedation to keep patients relaxed yet responsive during a procedure. Patients receive many of the same compounds that they would receive during general anesthesia. A sedative, such as nitrous oxide, inhibits the central nervous system responses and makes the patient feel relaxed. Some practitioners may add a dissociative, such as diazepam or midazolam, which prevents the transmission of nerve signals to the brain.
While these drugs induce unconsciousness in high doses, a lower-dose treatment keeps the patient calm. Heart rate lowers, and breathing slows. Because the patient is most often awake, conscious sedation typically includes an analgesic or anesthetic to inhibit pain response as well. Patients may receive the sedative intravenously, via injection, or in pill form. Once the medication takes effect, the patient can answer questions and respond to stimuli but may not remember the procedure afterwards.