No prescribed drug --and no over-the-counter medication for that matter -- is completely without risk. Some of the more powerful sedatives such as barbiturates pose the possibility of addiction along with a variety of unpleasant side effects. But the profile is very different for benzodiazepines like those used in sedation dentistry. These drugs are not addictive and do not carry many side effects.
In the case of any medication, however, caution is always advised. Patients may react differently. For this reason the dentist will ask a series of questions about overall health and other prescriptions in order to minimize the likelihood of any harm. It's important to answer questions as accurately as possible to ensure a safe outcome.
Besides a careful history and possible consultation with the medical doctor, the dentist and clinical staff will monitor the patient throughout the procedure and ensure that they leave the office with a companion or escort.
In addition to creating a feeling of deep relaxation, sedative medication may produce other effects. Patients may feel the hours pass very quickly or otherwise retain little memory of their time in the dental office. Analgesic properties decrease any sensation of pain or discomfort. In very rare instances sedative medication reacts adversely with another drug the patient takes. That's why it's critical to receive sedation treatment from a dentist who has extensive training in sedation as well as all applicable licensing.