A deep-seated fear of visiting the dentist is a phobia experienced by adults just as often as by children. Many dentists acknowledge the phobia and take steps to ameliorate it. Sedation dentistry involves using medication to help patients relax during dental procedures. The practice is sometimes referred to as sleep dentistry, although the term is inaccurate, as most patients remain awake and alert. The application of general anesthesia, used on patients undergoing surgical procedures, is an exception.
Dentists have a range of sedatives from which to choose, and select a sedation method based on the patient's needs and the requirements of the procedure. Oral sedation takes the form of a pill, usually Halcion, approximately one hour before the procedure begins. Inhaled minimal sedation, known colloquially as laughing gas, is breathed in by patients.
In instances when moderate sedation must take effect quickly, dentists connect patients to an IV. This level of sedation is not enough to render patients unconscious, but the dosage can be adjusted.