Can sedation dentistry be fatal?

All 4 of my wisdom teeth are impacted. I am having them pulled under sedation dentistry in January. I am managing the pain for the most part, but my schedule is too hectic to get the surgery done before next year. There is no way I can get the teeth pulled without being sedated, but the thought of it is making me nervous. Maybe I shouldn’t have done so much research on it, but I found some accounts of people who actually died from sedation at the dentist. Are there some hidden dangers that my dentist isn’t telling me about? If so maybe I will just take something that normally makes me sleepy so I can get through this. Thanks. Leticia


When you take any type of sedative—whether it’s from a doctor, dentist, or an anesthesiologist, there are always risks. There are also risks and side effects of any type of medication. But the risks are usually minor, and the odds of having a serious reaction with sedation dentistry are very small. The majority of dentists who use sedation don’t have any issues during their entire time of practicing dentistry.

Sedation dentistry is primarily administered through anti-anxiety medication. It will make you drowsy and relaxed, but not unconscious as with general anesthesia. General anesthesia has greater risks, but it is administered by a highly trained anesthesiologist—not by a dentist.

Before you receive any anti-anxiety medication, your sedation dentist will review your medical history and current medication. Your medication will be carefully checked against the anti-anxiety medication to ensure there are no conflicts. If you have an extensive medical history of complications, a conscientious sedation dentist will work with your primary care doctor to ensure you get the correct medication and dosage.

Dentists who administer sedation are required to receive extensive training, and have the legally regulated drugs and equipment for proper treatment. They are also trained on monitoring your vital signs to ensure your safety. The dentist is also trained to handle emergencies and to get appropriate medical help without trying to resolve the issue on his or her own in the dental office. Again, emergencies are rare.

Many patients benefit by speaking with a sedation dentist in advance. It’s an opportunity to discuss your concerns, ask questions, and ensure you understand what to expect before, during, and after your appointment. Ask about the dentist’s emergency protocol in the rare event of an emergency. The details you receive can help increase your comfort about your procedure. If you are dissatisfied with the consultation, find another dentist who can thoroughly address your concerns.

This post is sponsored by Plano, TX female dentist Dr. Miranda Lacy.