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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 medication began in the 1800s with the creation of bromides and chloral hydrate.
Today's doctor draws 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 there's no one medication that's 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 be the safest choice in a unique situation for a particular individual.