Sleep Dentistry Explained by a Winnipeg Dentist

Updated: Jul 19

In Winnipeg and all over the world, sleep dentistry, AKA sedation dentistry, has become a common practice. It's helps those with dental anxiety to get through their procedures feeling calm and at ease. People of any age can benefit from sleep dentistry but what is it? And how does it work? Let us explain!


Dentist performing checkup on teen female patient

What is Sleep Dentistry?

Sleep dentistry or sedation dentistry is the use of dentist-supplied sedatives on patients who suffer from anxiety. It helps those who are are scared of the dentist to finally get the care they need in an environment that feels safe and puts them at ease. These sedatives don't put you to sleep but they do allow you to relax and feel comfortable through whatever procedure you're getting done. While you are under, you will feel completely relaxed but will still be responsive and aware. We make sure to monitor your vital signs throughout the entire procedure and once the dentist is done, you will have little to no memory of the experience.


Young female patient holding her father's hand while dentist is performing routine check up.

Who Benefits From It?

No matter what age you are, you can benefit from sleep dentistry in Winnipeg. But the people commonly recommended sleep dentistry are those with:

  • Dental anxiety

  • Teeth and gum sensitivity

  • An overall fear of the dentist

  • Trypanophobia (the fear of needles)

  • Special needs, whether that be behavioural, cognitive, or physical.

  • Sensitive gag reflex


Dental hygienist working on patient

What Types of Sleep Dentistry Do You Use at LifeSmiles Dental in Winnipeg?

At LifeSmiles Dental in Winnipeg, and our other locations around Manitoba, we use the following kinds of sleep / sedation dentistry:

  • Nitrous Oxide

  • Oral Sedation

  • Mixed Modality

Nitrous oxide is a popular one and is better known as "laughing gas". The dentist puts a mask or nosepiece on you and you inhale the nitrous oxide. Within 3 to 5 minutes you will start to feel the calming and relaxing effects. Throughout your procedure the dentist will monitor the amount of sedation and adjust it how they see fit. Once you're done, they will flush out the nitrous oxide from your system, with pure oxygen. Another reason this one is a popular choice is because you can drive yourself home after.


Oral sedation usually comes in pill form and will be given to you about an hour before your procedure. This one makes you feel quite dazed and there's even a chance you'll fall asleep. If you do, the dentist can still wake you up if they need to. With oral sedation, you will have to find someone to give you a lift home afterwards because it can affect your motor skills and memory for a short time.


Mixed modality Mixed-modal analgesia (MMa) uses both narcotic and nonnarcotics to provide pain relief during dental treatment. A thorough understanding of patient assessment before administration must precede any procedure involving anesthetic drugs because each case will vary based on factors including age, medical condition(s), general anesthesia history, allergies, etc., which require special attention by all practitioners prior to administering any pharmacological agent. Therefore knowledge about adverse drug reaction potential associated with specific medication administered should always accompany prescription writing whenever possible so one could appropriately choose if MMa would offer benefits over more traditional methods available today.


Children's Dentist preforming routine checkup on a young male patient

Are There Any Risks?

Sleep dentistry is overall, very safe when done by a licensed dentist or healthcare provider. But like any procedure there is the small risk of complications. A few short term possibilities can be IV bruising, headaches, nausea / vomiting, drowsiness, and dry mouth. Make sure to talk to your dentist about any allergies before going through with sleep dentistry, even though it's rare to have an allergic reaction to it.