Oral sedation describes the use of benzodiazepine medications to provide a deeper level of sedation. Benzodiazepines have a safe history of use, and they derive their effectiveness from their ability to effectively suppress the central nervous system response that results in anxiety (or the fight or flight response). Patients remain conscious and responsive throughout the procedure using oral sedation, though they may not recall the specifics of the appointment.
Oral sedation effects leave the patient feeling calm, passive, and drowsy. For this reason, your dentist will direct you to ensure that a driver who is known to you collects you from the appointment and sees you home safely. Since oral sedatives can impact your judgment temporarily, walking home or taking public transit is not a safe alternative.
Benzodiazepines are not immediately effective, so your dentist may have you take the medication at home before your appointment or may request that you arrive early for your appointment to allow the medication to take effect before the procedure. This level of sedation is not easily controlled like laughing gas, but it does provide a lasting effect – so prepare to spend the rest of your day napping away the drowsiness. The following day, the effects of the oral medication will have dissipated, and you can safely return to your regular activities.