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Oral conscious sedation dentistry is a safe and gentle way to receive dental treatment.  This wonderful service allows Dr. Shepherd to create a safe and comfortable dental experience for patients who avoid the dentist out of fear or who might have time restrictions.  Sometimes referred to as “relaxation,” “sleep,” or “anxiety free” dentistry, this comfortable care is now offered by a few select dentists in New Mexico. 


Dr. Ryan Shepherd completed his conscious sedation training through the DOCS program in 2008.  Since his certification at that time, he has completed over 500 conscious sedation cases.  Utilizing this great service, Dr. Shepherd can work more effectively by helping a patient become as comfortable as possible using well established and proven protocols with a variety of sedation medications administered orally and sublingually (under the tongue). These protocols can be customized for the patient’s individual emotional and physical needs.


You may want to consider conscious sedation for your dental needs if:

·        You have a history of traumatic dental experiences

·        You have a phobia of the dentist

·        You are afraid of needles

·        You have a strong gag reflex

·        You have a hard time getting numb

·        You have extensive dental needs

·        You have limited time to complete multiple dental procedures


A list of FAQ is listed below for your reference.


To learn more about the oral conscious sedation dentistry we offer or to make an appointment, please call us at 268-4484 or email us at   



What is a sedative?

Sedative medication helps relax patients by slowing the action of the central nervous system. People remain aware of their surroundings, but are less responsive to external stimuli like the sound of the drill or the smell of materials.

This also reduces their sense of pain. Sedatives aren't new; in fact, they date back thousands of years. Pain management is as old as medicine, and other ancient forms include alcohol, the mandrake root and opium poppies. The modern age of sedative medications began in the 1800s with the creation of bromides and chloral hydrate.

Today's doctors draw upon a continually-expanding list of new sedatives to help lessen pain and dental anxiety. Current medications are often more powerful and less likely to carry unpleasant side effects. However, all medications differ, and none are appropriate for every patient. Some of the drugs take action quickly but rapidly fade in potency, while others last for hours. Doctors weigh a number of factors carefully to assess which drug will represent the safest choice in a unique situation for a particular individual.

What will I experience after taking sedatives?

Most people feel calmer, relaxed and sleepy after taking sedative medication. But it's important to understand that these drugs are used to produce sedation along a continuum, ranging from mild to moderate at one end and unconscious at the other. In our office, Dr. Shepherd usually aims for moderate sedation levels, which provides patients a light sleep experience, while remaining responsive, and able to answer questions. General anesthesia -- where patients are in a deep sleep -- is only provided in the hospital.

The number of patients who are afraid of the dentist ranges as high as 20 percent. For these individuals and many others sedative medication can make oral care easier to tolerate. When patients are comfortably sleepy -- but still responsive – Dr. Shepherd and his team are able to proceed more efficiently. They can often perform a number of procedures in a single appointment, without sacrificing either patient safety or clinical quality. Many people with hectic schedules find it very beneficial to receive necessary treatments in as little as one dental visit instead of multiple trips to the dentist.

What kind of medication will I receive?

The type of sedative or sedatives the dentist prescribes depends on the procedure being performed, the patient's medical condition and any other drugs they take. In many cases doctors use a class of sedative medication called benzodiazepines. Examples of benzodiazepines include diazepam, lorazepam and triazolam.

Benzodiazepines were first developed in the 1960s, so scientists have had many decades during which to study them. In general the drugs are extremely safe and pose little risk of adverse reaction with other medications. Benzodiazepines are the most commonly prescribed sedatives used today.

What are the side effects to sedative medication?

No prescribed drug -- for that matter no over-the-counter medication -- 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 our team 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, Dr. Shepherd and his team will monitor the patient throughout the procedure and ensure that they leave the office with a companion or escort.  You will also be monitored by a pulse oximeter to assess your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood oxygen saturation levels.

In addition to creating a feeling of deep relaxation, sedative medication may produce other effects. Patients may feel the hours passed very quickly or otherwise retain little memory of their time in the dental office. Analgesic properties decrease any sensation of pain or discomfort

What special training should my dentist have?

Most states require training and/or a permit for sedation dentists. Among the most respected sedation training comes from DOCS Education, which has helped over 17,000 dental professionals. Patients shouldn't hesitate to ask doctors about their experience, training and the number of sedation cases they have performed.

Dr. Shepherd completed his training and certification through the DOCS program in 2008 and has completed over 500 successful sedation cases since that time. He and his sedation team are responsible for monitoring patient's vital signs using equipment like a pulse oximeter with a blood pressure monitor. They can also recognize and respond to potential emergencies.

What is the first step?

This is difficult for many anxious people, so we try to make this as easy as possible.

Simply call us at 268-4484 or email us at The Sedation Team will answer any questions you have and ask you some simple questions to help ensure you get the care you want and deserve.

When you're ready, you can schedule a time that works for you for your Welcoming visit.  This is when the Sedation Team will gather information regarding your health and discuss with you your wants and desires. If you're comfortable, we'll take x-rays and look in your mouth. But you will never be judged or embarrassed.

Knowledge about oral sedation treatment is not only powerful—it is empowering. It is important to talk to Dr. Shepherd about your fears and concerns during your consultation before any dentistry is ever performed. It is critical that you provide your dentist with an updated health history including any medications you are on, including vitamins and supplements. Factors like smoking and alcohol consumption can alter the effectiveness of sedation medications, so be sure to tell your doctor about any habits you may have.

Do I need to prepare for the sedation visit?

You may receive a prescription for a sedative to take the night before your first appointment to guarantee a good night's sleep and to make sure you wake up relaxed.

Oral sedation is a popular treatment option for many people because it does not require the use of additional needles. Medications can be swallowed whole and/or crushed and administered by your dentist sublingually (under the tongue). Medications given sublingually are absorbed into the bloodstream quicker, so it is a preferred option by many dentists. Both methods are safe and effective.

The safety of sedation medications is measured by pharmacists and physicians on a scale called the therapeutic index. The larger the number is on the scale, the safer the drug. The sedation medications we use in our for oral sedation dentistry have the highest numbers possible on the therapeutic index, making them the least likely to cause an adverse reaction.

What happens on the day of treatment?

On the morning of your appointment, you should take your dispensed medication as indicated by Dr. Shepherd and his team.  Because the medication will remain active in your system for 8 hours, you must have a companion bring you to the office. Once you have arrived, your companion should call us.  Two members from our sedation team will come down your driver’s vehicle to pick you up in a wheelchair and take you to your treatment room.  You will be given a warm blanket, additional medication as needed, and connected to a pulse oximeter to monitor your vitals.  Our experienced sedation team will monitor you throughout your entire visit.

Dr. Shepherd can perform a variety of protocols customized to your particular physiological and pharmacological needs. The medications are safe and have been used for decades. In fact, you’ve probably seen or heard some of their names before. Several have amnesic properties, meaning that you remember little to nothing of your time in the dental chair.

What will recovery be like?

In addition to providing Dr. Shepherd with a complete health history, you will need to choose a companion to drive you to and from your sedation appointment. You should not eat or drink 12 hours prior to your appointment unless otherwise directed. Your health history can affect your before and after care plans, especially for diabetics and smokers, so make sure Dr. Shepherd knows about any medical conditions you may have. Because the medication will be in your system for several hours after your appointment, you should plan to take the remainder of the day off.  We recommend that you not be left alone, and that you avoid any important decisions during your recovery period.  Be sure to stay hydrated and drink lots of fluids. You should not drive or operate heavy machinery for 24 hours.

Most patients feel no discomfort or residual effects from the dental visit and you'll be thrilled with all the compliments you will get.


We look forward to meeting you and taking care of your dental needs!  Should you have any other questions or to make an appointment, please call us at 268-4484 or email us at