Summary : Many people don't attend the dentist because they are scared. Todays modern dentists have several methods of helping patients who have high levels of anxiety. This include injections which put the patients at ease, 'happy gas' for worried children and hypnosis at a few specialist practices.
Dentists performing IV sedation commonly use the drug midazolam, which has a short period of action lasting only a few hours. The patient will loose anxiety with regard to the treatment and will be a lot calmer. The level to which this is taken varies between dentists, usually just enough is given so that the patient feels relaxed. During administration of these drugs the patient will be linked to a pulse oximeter. This measures the heart rate and the amount of oxygen in the blood mainly as a safety measure. After this period the patient may have reduced reflexes and responses and decreased thinking capacity. For this reason patients must not drive, operate machinery or make important decisions.

This drug also has an amnesic affect so the patient remembers little of the procedure. One complicating factor is that the drug may produce 'erotic dreams' in some persons. For this reason the dentist will always have a second responsible person in the room as a witness as previously some patients haven't been able to differentiate these erotic dreams from real life.

Commonly called 'happy air' or 'gas and air' this technique is more commonly used with children due to its more favourable effect. The patient is fitted with a face mask and given nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen. This makes the patient feel light headed and floaty. The dentist will normally accompany the gas with a semi-hypnotic story in order to relax the patient. The effects of the gas are removed about two minutes after the nitrous oxide is removed and substituted with oxygen. This method is very safe and doesn't use the same gases as a general anaesthetic.
Some dentists have experimented with this technique, basically the patient is relaxed through calming speech which alters the state of consciousness. Different people have different susceptibilities and it doesn't work for everybody. Some hypnotists claim that they can make a patients tooth become numb, thereby removing a need for an injection. These claims though are largely unproven.
Many patients find that after several appointments using the methods outlined above that they have increased their confidence and have decreased anxiety. In many of these patients it is found that subsequent treatment can be carried out without injections of sedative agents.

The dentist may help other nervous patients overcome their fear by carrying out simple treatments such as radiographs and scale and polishing first before progressing to fillings and extractions if required. As treatment is gradually introduced, the patient is gradually acclimatised to dentistry.