Sedation Dentistry in Costa Rica: A Proven Method for Alleviating Dental Fear

Sedation Dentistry in Costa Rica: A Proven Method for Alleviating Dental Fear

Visiting the dentist is often unpleasant, just like getting pricked by a needle during a blood test. About 20% of people avoid the dentist because of anxiety and fear. Unpleasant and painful experiences and dramatic stories from friends and family are the primary causes of most dental fears. This fear can cause patients to lose sleep or to postpone needed dental care. Avoiding the dentist can lead to serious dental problems and reduce overall quality of life. So how are many patients reducing or eliminating their fear of the dentist? Sedation Dentistry.


Visiting the dentist is often unpleasant, just like getting pricked by a needle during a blood test. About 20% of people avoid the dentist because of anxiety and fear. Unpleasant and painful experiences and dramatic stories from friends and family are the primary causes of most dental fears. This fear can cause patients to lose sleep or to postpone needed dental care. Avoiding the dentist can lead to serious dental problems and reduce overall quality of life. So how are many patients reducing or eliminating their fear of the dentist? Sedation Dentistry.

What is Sedation Dentistry?

Sedation dentistry refers to the process of using sedatives to soothe and ease a patient through painful dental treatments. Sedatives suppress the nervous system, especially the areas that involve conscious awareness. With sedation dentistry, the patient receives dental treatment without feeling pain.

There are several levels of sedation:

  • Minimal sedation: The patient may be awake but dizzy.
  • Moderate sedation: This is often called conscious sedation. During conscious sedation, a patient will be able to respond to the doctor but will not feel pain and will not remember the procedure after the effects of the sedation fade.
  • Deep sedation: The patient is still wake but utterly unaware of what is happening. The patient is generally unable to respond during deep sedation.
  • General anesthesia: While under general anesthesia, the patient will be completely unconscious. The patient will not feel any pain nor, will the patient have any memory of the procedure.

 Types of Dental Sedation

Laughing Gas

The most common type of dental sedation is nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas”. According to studies, nitrous oxide does not make you fall asleep but will help you to overcome your anxiety. Even though anesthesia injections are used with nitrous oxide, the gas helps in reducing the pain caused due to the injection and makes the entire process painless. Nitrous oxide is not generally available in Costa Rica.

Enteral Sedation

Enteral sedation is a type of pill or liquid that is supposed to be consumed orally. You might not fall asleep, but it will relieve you from anxiety. Many dental clinics in Costa Rica use this for patients seeking a mild sedative prior to a potentially painful dental procedure.

Local Anesthesia

For small dental procedures involving a small portion of the mouth, local anesthesia might be the best option for you. The dentist will insert a drug along your gum line, with a needle. The medicine will cause a numbing effect. As a result, you will not suffer from any pain or discomfort during the entire process. Leading dental clinics in Costa Rica take great care to ensure that the patient feels as little pain as possible during a procedure.

IV Sedation-Conscious Sedation

Intravenous (IV) sedation, also known as conscious sedation is widely used and recommended for patients seeking advanced dental procedures such as dental implants or the All on 4 dental implants procedure. During conscious sedation, the sedative is injected via IV into the patient’s veins by a licensed anesthesiologist in a clinic setting. The patient will likely remain awake and may be responsive but will not be fully aware of the dental procedure. Once the procedure is completed, the patient will not remember the procedure.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is offered to patients undergoing complex dental surgery such as zygomatic dental implants, maxillofacial surgery or orthognathic surgery. During general anesthesia, the sedatives are injected directly into the patient’s veins by a licensed anesthesiologist in a hospital setting. The patient remains asleep throughout the procedure. There is a longer recovery period for patients receiving general anesthesia. Due to the hospital setting, general anesthesia is more expensive than most other forms of sedation.

Patients are encouraged to discuss all available options with their chosen dental team. Most dental surgery procedures in Costa Rica require local or conscious IV sedation. Only patients seeking major dental surgery in Costa Rica may require general anesthesia. Patients should understand that general anesthesia comes with the most side effects.

Training and Licensing for Dental Sedation

Dental clinics that use sedation techniques should only offer these services through trained and licensed anesthesiologists. The clinic staff should have proper emergency training, emergency supplies, and proper equipment. Not every dentist in Costa Rica is qualified to perform dental sedation. The rules and guidelines of sedation dentistry vary according to state and nation. Goodness Dental in Costa Rica complies with the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) program in deep sedation and general anesthesia to conduct complex sedation procedures.

How Does Sedation Dentistry Work?

The type of sedation you will receive will depend your treatment and the recommendation made by your specialist. This is when it is especially important that you work with licensed specialists, not general dentists.

If your dentist recommends an oral sedative, you will be given a prescription and instructions on dosage.

In the case of IV sedation, you should receive a set of instructions and guidelines. You may need to abstain from eating and drinking before surgery to ensure your safety during the procedure. You may also need to avoid certain medications that might interfere with the procedure.

After the sedation procedure is initiated, most patients will be in a very relaxed state and will not likely remember anything following the administration of the sedatives.

Do you Need Sedation Dentistry?

If you have one of the following problems, you might require sedation dentistry.

  • Fear of dental processes
  • Bad dental memories
  • Nerve sensitivity
  • Dental surgery
  • Dental implants
  • Root canals
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Low pain tolerance

If any of these apply to you, you may be a good candidate for dental sedation. Talk to your dentist about it and discuss your options. Today, there is no reason for any patient to endure pain during a dental procedure.  

Is Sedation Dentistry Safe?

Sedation dentistry in Costa Rica is safe if you choose a quality dental clinic that offers licensed anesthesiologists and a qualified support team. There are some things to discuss with your provider before receiving sedation. If you suffer from obesity or obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor may need to take special precautions to ensure your safety.

For a safe procedure, discuss the following with your dentist.

  • Medical history including medication
  • Approved sedation options for your age and health.
  • Understand your risks prior to any procedure.
  • Licensing, training and experience
  • Emergency preparations

Article: Barbara Goldman: Accreditation Specialist

About Barbara Goldman

Barbara Goldman – Accreditation Specialist: My life's mission has always been focused on improving the community in which we live. As a retired school teacher of 25 years, I focused on improving the lives of children. After I retired, I still wanted to be a vital part of the community. I became part of Costa Rica Dental Guide to start a new chapter in my life – to continue my mission, but with a different focus.