Know the Difference: Sedation Vs. Anesthesia

While the words sedation and anesthesia are often used interchangeably. Both are in fact quite different procedures.

Depending on the nature of the procedure, the patient’s age and their preferences, a specialist will either sedate the patient or administer one of the many types of anesthesia.

Here’s what you need to know about both of them:


Sedation or light sleep is essentially a milder version of anesthesia. There are two levels of sedation before anesthesia—also known as deep sedation.

These are conscious sedation and moderate sedation. In each of these, you are dimly aware of your surroundings; effects of any external stimulus on you are minimal. You feel relaxed and sleepy under its influence. These are generally administered by a trained nurse to reduce discomfort.


General anesthesia—as opposed to local that is the numbing of a specific region—involves overall loss of consciousness. In such a state, you don’t respond to any external changes. This is usually done before invasive surgical procedures and requires the use of multiple chemical agents. Only licensed anesthesiologists can administer it.


Usually, the type of anesthesia to be administered is based on your age and type of surgical procedure being performed. This is because while anesthetics are safer for usage now, its effects vary from person to person.

For instance, an infant and a teenager would each require different forms of anesthesia. Similarly, sedation isn’t recommended for medical procedures like heart surgeries; instead, patients are put on heart-lung machines and inhalation anesthetics are administered for mild to moderate sedation.

General anesthesia is also used during the diagnosis of medical conditions. These include lumbar punctures, upper endoscopy, bronchoscopy, etc.

Why Medical Professionals Prefer General Anesthesia

While sedation is not as strong as general anesthesia, it might still require the use of respiratory support in certain cases. Most anesthesiologists consider this to be a hassle, however, because this prevents them from giving undivided attention to the procedure. However, you recover much faster if sedated, than when under general anesthesia.

Instances Where Sedation Is Needed

Since most dental procedures are minor, sedatives may be used for patients who may have severe dental anxiety. Most dentists prefer oral sedation which involves taking a pill an hour before the appointment, this allows the patients to stay calm in the seats, while the dentist carries on with the procedure.

Dental Treatments

On the other hand, in invasive procedures like root canal treatments, topical anesthesia might be applied to the target site. Topical anesthetics numb out the area they are applied on, thereby, eliminating any feelings of pain. Patients are fully awake and able to respond under such anesthetics.

If you are located in Calabasas and have been avoiding dental appointments out of fear or anxiety, we can help. We offer dental treatments under sedation to help patients relax and be comfortable during their appointments. Book an appointment with us now and get that smile you deserve!