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IV Sedation 101

Fearing dental visits is common, but postponing necessary dental treatment because of fear can lead to more serious problems. If you are terrified at the thought of sitting in the dentist’s chair, and conscious sedation doesn’t work for you, IV sedation dentistry or intravenous sedation is an option.

Intravenous sedation is used in dentistry to calm patients with dental anxieties and fears. Anti-anxiety medication is injected into the vein straight into the bloodstream. This method of sedation typically produces a deeper relaxation effect compared to oral or inhalation sedation.

Intravenous sedation is safe as long as a qualified dentist administers it. A comprehensive evaluation of the patient’s oral health and medical condition is conducted before starting IV sedation. Throughout the procedure, the dentist and his or her team monitor the patient’s vital signs: pulse, heart rate, oxygen level and blood pressure. Some patients become nauseous after the sedation procedure, while others experience dry mouth. After sedation, patients must drink lots of fluids and avoid physical exertion.

Some sedatives commonly used for intravenous sedation:

  • Benzodiazepines are anti-anxiety drugs that may also induce amnesia. Midazolam is usually the most preferred drug because of its short-term effect. Other benzos used in intravenous sedation are Valium and Diazepam.
  • Opioids like Morphine, Demerol, Stadol, Fentanyl and Pentazocine are sedatives with pain-killing effect.
  • Propofol is sometimes used as an alternative to benzos. The recovery time for patients under propofol is less than five minutes.

Are You a Candidate for IV Sedation?

IV sedation is an effective solution for patients who cannot sit through dental procedures in a state of full consciousness. IV sedation helps you relax and reduces or eliminates your apprehension about painful and tedious dental treatments. There is no specific recovery time; it varies for every patient and also depends on the type of sedative administered.

What If I’m Afraid of Needles?

Patients who are afraid of needles can opt for oral sedation or inhalation sedation (nitrous oxide). But if you are still advised to go through intravenous sedation despite your fear of needles, the dentist usually administers oral sedation first and then proceeds with intravenous sedation.