Do you have anxiety that keeps you from getting necessary dental care? Or does your anxiety make the dental experience so unpleasant that you spend days–or weeks–suffering before and after your appointment? Do you have problems with a strong gag reflex, difficulty getting numb, or muscle soreness during or after your appointment?

If you experience these or other problems related to dental anxiety or fear, sedation dentistry can help. Depending on the nature of your experience and concerns, St. Louis sedation dentist Dr. Chris Hill offers multiple sedation options. But how do you know which sedation dentistry option is best for you? The best way is to talk to Dr. Hill in person, but this brief guide can help you understand the benefits and limitations of different sedation dentistry options.

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Understanding Your Sedation Dentistry Options

First, let’s explain the three sedation options that St. Louis dentist Dr. Hill offers. If you understand how these options work, it will make it clearer why one or the other might be better for you.

Nitrous Oxide

Also known as “laughing gas” or inhaled sedation, nitrous oxide has a very long history of use in dentistry, nearly 180 years. This is a gas that, when inhaled, can have three main effects on you: pain relief, anxiety relief, and euphoria. It achieves pain relief and euphoria by stimulating the production of the body’s own opioid-like substances. Anxiety relief comes from stimulating receptors for the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is essential to your brain’s natural relaxation mechanism, so the effect can sometimes feel like you’re starting to doze off.

When you arrive at our office, we’ll set you up with a safe mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen to encourage the desired level of sedation. When your procedure is complete, we will give you a dose of pure oxygen to help flush the nitrous oxide from your system.

Oral Conscious Sedation

Oral conscious sedation refers to using medications such as benzodiazepines like alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium). Although different types of medications have been used as sedatives in dentistry for nearly 200 years, benzodiazepines emerged as a safer alternative to previous sedatives in the mid-20th century. Some newer alternatives have only found widespread use in the last 20 years.

However, even the newest options have many years of good safety data, showing that they are effective and safe to use for dental sedation.

Most of these medications work by encouraging GABA to attach to its receptors, creating a similar sleepy feeling.

With oral conscious sedation, you simply take a pill. Sometimes you may take the pill at our office. Other times, you may take it at home before coming to the office. St. Louis sedation dentist Dr. Hill will select the medication and dosage to ensure you get the right level of sedation for the expected duration of your procedure.


NuCalm isn’t a drug. Instead, it uses a combination of neurological stimuli to help you achieve a brain state similar to the moment just before you drift off to sleep: perfectly comfortable and perfectly relaxed.

Our NuCalm system uses four elements to encourage relaxation. We’ll give you GABA-containing supplements or skin cream. Plus, we use micro-pulse stimulation to encourage a near-sleep state. A light-blocking eye mask keeps out the bright lights. Finally, you’ll wear headphones that play scientifically formulated beats embedded into music or peaceful sounds. These beats influence the frequency of your brain waves, putting you in a relaxed state.

What Is the Best Sedation Option for Anxiety Relief?

Although people respond differently to sedation options, in general, oral sedation dentistry allows us to address more severe levels of dental anxiety than other options. After this, nitrous oxide is the most effective for anxiety relief.

NuCalm can help some people with severe dental anxiety, but it’s more variable. It’s worth trying for even severe dental anxiety if you like some of its other benefits.

What Is the Best Sedation Option If I Have Trouble Getting Numb?

Difficulty getting numb is often related to anxiety. Any of the sedation dentistry options that relieve your anxiety will help you get numb.

However, nitrous oxide provides more anesthesia than other sedation options. As an anesthetic, it can bridge the gap between the local anesthetic and your pain sensitivity to help you avoid discomfort during your procedure.

What Sedation Options Help with a Strong Gag Reflex?

All three sedation options offered by St. Louis sedation dentist Dr. Hill are proven to help control a strong gag reflex.

What Sedation Options Let Me Drive to and from My Appointment?

You can drive to and from your appointment if you choose nitrous oxide sedation or NuCalm. Both allow you to recover quickly so you can drive safely.

What Sedation Options Give Relief from Anxiety Before My Appointment?

For many people, dental anxiety starts days before their appointment. If this is you, St. Louis sedation dentist Dr. Hill can prescribe a course of sedation that helps you sleep the night before your appointment. Some people’s anxiety keeps them from coming to the office. Oral sedation helps in this case because you can take it beforehand.

The Best Sedation for You in St. Louis

If you are looking for sedation dentistry in the St. Louis area, Smile On Dental Studio can help. Dr. Chris Hill can help you find the right sedation that meets your needs while limiting unnecessary side effects.

For help getting relief from dental anxiety in St. Louis, please call (314) 678-7876 or use our online form to request an appointment with Smile On Dental Studio at our St. Louis location in Richmond Heights, MO.