Sedation Dentistry: Cost Comparison & Insurance Coverage

Sedation Dentistry: Cost Comparison & Insurance Coverage
profile picture of Licensed DDS
Sedation Dentistry: Cost Comparison & Insurance CoverageClinical Content Reviewed by Licensed DDS
Last Modified:

Clinical content featured by Byte is reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to help ensure clinical accuracy.

We follow strict sourcing guidelines and each page contains a full list of sources for complete transparency.

Table of Contents

  1. Costs of Sedation Dentistry
  2. Sedation Dentistry Insurance Coverage
  3. Sedation Dentistry vs General Anesthesia
  4. Sedation Dentistry Candidates
  5. References
Sedation dentistry uses several medications, often oral sedatives or intravenous medicines, to depress consciousness and prevent memories from forming of the procedure, while allowing the person to be awake and responsive to questions. It is a good option for many people.

Cost of Different Types of Sedation Dentistry

The cost of sedation dentistry depends on what type of sedative your dentist provides.

Inhalation Sedation

“Laughing gas” or nitrous oxide produces a light sedation that wears off easily. Alone, [the American Dental Association (ADA) considers](https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Education and Careers/Files/anesthesiauseguidelines.pdf) this minimum sedation, but nitrous oxide can be combined with other medications to produce moderate or deep sedation, or even general anesthesia.

Minimum sedation can cost between $25 and $100.

Light Oral Sedation

Sedatives in the benzodiazepine family like Halcyon, Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin are common choices for oral sedation. These are inexpensive and can be used to depress consciousness at several different levels, from relaxed with hazy memory to full depression of consciousness without unconsciousness.

This can cost about $150 to $500, depending on how long the procedure is and how many sedatives your dentist uses.

IV Sedation

If you have intense dental phobia, your dentist may combine an oral sedative with IV sedation, which is sometimes called sleep dentistry. Although you will not actually be asleep, IV drugs produce significant memory loss, so you will not truly experience the procedure.

Your dentist may also bring in an anesthesiologist for IV sedation, as you will need to have your heart rate and breathing monitored. People who receive this type of sedation cannot easily be roused, and it could take several hours to wear off.

The cost is typically around $250 to $900.

General Anesthesia

This is a full loss of consciousness that requires monitoring throughout the procedure. It is rare for a dentist to use general anesthesia, but it is sometimes the best approach to patient support.

The cost is between $300 and $1,000, although this price may be higher depending on where you live.

Insurance May Cover Your Sedation Dentistry if It Is Medically Necessary

Sedation dentistry is an important option for people who have reactions to topical or local anesthesia, who do not respond well to local anesthesia, or who have significant dental phobia or uncooperativeness. However, insurance rarely covers sedation dentistry, as it is considered optional.

Your dental insurance may cover sedation dentistry in some cases:

  • For children up to 6 years old who have a complex dental condition requiring surgery.
  • For an individual has a mental, intellectual, physical, or medically compromising condition that makes local anesthesia impossible.
  • For an individual who is extremely anxious; has a diagnosed anxiety or phobia disorder; or is uncooperative, unmanageable, or uncommunicative and needs intensive treatment.
  • For individuals for whom local anesthesia is ineffective.
  • For individuals who have extensive or sustained oral/dental/facial trauma, which compromises a local anesthetic’s ability to work.

If you meet some of these criteria or think sedation dentistry might be a better option for you than local anesthetic, talk to your dentist about diagnostic criteria and getting your dental insurance to cover sedation dentistry. Your dentist may also have other options to support your oral health.

The cost of sedation dentistry ranges from $25 to $1,000, depending on the type of sedative used and the length of the procedure.

Is Sedation Dentistry Different Than General Anesthesia?

There are very few dental treatments that require general anesthesia anymore. In part, this is because medications like lidocaine or diazepam, are very effective at reducing or eliminating physical pain or helping you relax during a longer procedure.

General anesthesia takes hours to fully recover from, even for outpatient procedures, and can have side effects, such as dizziness, trouble urinating, nausea, and temporary memory loss after waking up. If a medical professional can use local anesthesia instead, they generally prefer this treatment as it reduces side effects and can support better healing.

Still, many people have intense dental phobia or fear and need some help beyond local anesthetics like lidocaine. Sedation dentistry is a term for an approach to dental practice which allows you to remain awake and conscious with a combination of oral and intravenous medications, but you do not remember the procedure once it is complete. This is sometimes called oral conscious sedation.

Who Is Best Suited to Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry combines different medications that are swallowed, breathed in, or even sent through an IV, to help alleviate anxiety and allow people who struggle with dental phobia or great fear of dentistry to undergo procedures that they might otherwise avoid.

Sometimes, sedation dentistry is medication like Xanax or Valium that helps you relax but stay awake. In other instances, sedation dentistry involves general anesthesia, so you are unconscious for the procedure. Typically, the focus of sedation dentistry is relaxing you enough to successfully complete a procedure without actually making you unconscious, even though you do not remember the procedure afterward.

Although sedation dentistry requires strong medications and is not the first recommendation from dentists, it allows patients with intense fear of dentistry, trouble with local anesthesia like lidocaine, or those with extensive damage to their teeth in need of lengthy procedures to remain awake and responsive to commands. There are also fewer side effects and negative reactions compared to general anesthesia. The patient may technically experience the dental procedure, but their brain will not form a memory of it.

Sedation dentistry can be helpful for people with dental phobias. They can get the dental treatment they need, and over time, they may begin to fear the dentist less in the future. If they do not remember something they experience as traumatic, they may be more likely to seek regular dental treatment later, which can improve their oral health.

Some dentists prefer to use oral medication for sedation dentistry, while others may prefer intravenous (IV) sedation dentistry. Often, a combination of the two can be most effective, but the best approach will depend on what the patient prefers.

References

What to Know About General Anesthesia. (January 2018). Medical News Today. Date fetched: May 16, 2021.

Pop Some Pills, Sleep Through Your Dental Visit? (September 2004). NBC News. Date fetched: May 16, 2021.

Anesthesia and Sedation. (May 2019). Mouth Healthy, from the American Dental Association. Date fetched: May 16, 2021.

Is IV Sedation Dentistry Right for You? Colgate. Date fetched: May 16, 2021.

How Much Does Sedation Dentistry Cost? Health.CostHelper. Date fetched: May 16, 2021.

Guidelines for the Use of Sedation and General Anesthesia by Dentists. (October 2016). American Dental Association (ADA). Date fetched: May 16, 2021.

Benzodiazepines. United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Date fetched: May 16, 2021.

Deep Sedation/General Anesthesia and IV Sedation for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Dental Services. (February 2020). Aetna. Date fetched: May 16, 2021.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

TOP