IV sedation

What is IV Sedation Dentistry?

If you’re feeling afraid, anxious or apprehensive about a dental appointment, you’re not alone. 44% of people avoid or procrastinate regular dental appointments due to phobias or their emotional well-being (Khorsandi, 2023) . 

Dental health is a key part of your overall health, so finding a way to get to and through your appointments is essential (Dental Health and Overall Health: 5 Telltale Symptoms, n.d). Dentists may suggest sedation to patients who experience dental anxiety or discomfort, those who require multiple procedures back-to-back, or patients who are overwhelmed by the thought of a longer appointment. When sedated, patients feel more comfortable and relaxed during routine check-ups or dental procedures. 

At Lewis Estates Dental Centre, we offer two sedation options – intravenous (IV) sedation, or oral sedatives. 

IV sedation is delivered via a tiny needle into a vein in your arm, through which anxiety medication is delivered. You’ll feel the effects of the IV sedation within a couple of minutes. After your procedure, the effects will wear off in about within an hour and fully leave your system in about a day.

We do not provide IV sedation for children under the age of 12. However, if your child is experiencing anxiety around dental visits, wecan recommend and refer your child to a local pediatric dentist.

Oral sedatives must be taken about an hour before the dental appointment. IV sedation takes effect much more quickly. Oral sedatives are also tricky to customize for each patient’s needs. If you are seeking dental care under sedation, speak to your dentist to determine which form of sedation is best for you..

How does IV sedation work?

Sometimes, people confuse IV sedation and general anesthesia. They’re very different! With IV sedation, you remain awake throughout the appointment. With general anesthesia, you are unconscious and need intubation for breathing assistance. The use of general anesthesia in dentistry is commonly referred to as sleep dentistry. 

As the IV sedative takes effect, you’ll feel very calm. As the medicine kicks in, you’ll enter a dream-like state, and time will seem to pass very quickly. This dream-like state is sometimes called a “twilight” state of consciousness. 

IV sedation is a great option for those concerned about hearing or knowing what’s happening during their appointment. While under sedation, you’ll become mostly unaware of your surroundings. Even though you’ll be more relaxed, you will still have the ability to answer any questions the dentist may ask. You’ll also have little to no memory of your appointment, so post-appointment anxiety should be minimal. 

While under IV sedation, you are conscious and can breathe and move on your own. Your gag reflex is also not impacted by the anxiety medication, a common concern for patients considering this option. 

What are the benefits of IV sedation?

There are many advantages to choosing IV sedation over oral sedation. Not only does it lower the anxiety and apprehension you may feel during a dental procedure, but it gives the dentist a greater ability to do their work. Since the level of sedation can be adjusted as needed during the appointment, ensuring you’re comfortable throughout the procedure. Also, since the level of sedation is monitored throughout the entire procedure, there is no risk of over-sedation, which can be an issue with other sedation methods. 

IV sedation can last up to six hours if needed, allowing the dentist to complete multiple procedures at once, if necessary. The dentist will determine the exact length of the sedation based on your individual needs and the nature of the procedures being performed. As a result, patients who require extensive oral health procedures don’t need to worry about repeat visits, which can alleviate  dental anxiety and reduce costs. 

IV sedation happens much more quickly than oral sedation. When administered via the bloodstream, patients feel that twilight state of consciousness almost immediately. The medication allows you to continue breathing independently, while also eliminating anxiety and pain. Although you will be able to answer questions directed to you, you won’t focus on other sounds (such as the dentist’s drill) or smells during your time in the dentist’s chair.In fact, many patients wind up with appointment amnesia – they can’t remember what happened during the procedure. 

There are also fewer side effects with IV sedation than with some of the other options, especially general anesthesia. The drowsiness from the medication wears off relatively quickly, though patients may still feel fatigued or groggy and should get a responsible adult to drive them home from the procedure.

IV sedation is a fantastic approach, and there are a few things to consider before determining if it’s right for you.

Is IV sedation right for you?

Many personal experiences may determine if IV sedation is the right option for you. 

For example, if you’ve had a traumatic dental experience or have anxiety about returning to the dentist’s office, your dentist may suggest this option. ​​IV sedation can help you relax and feel more at ease during dental procedures, which can be particularly beneficial if you dread the sound of dental tools or are generally fearful at the thought of dental treatment. IV sedation may be the way to go if you want to avoid triggers that may exacerbate your anxiety or trauma (though it’s always advisable to deal with anxiety and trauma at the source, if possible, rather than rely on IV sedation)(Dental Fear Central Web Team, 2022). 

If you have a fear of pain during dental appointments, IV sedation can help. The medication reduces the ability to feel pain. You can still follow your dentist’s instructions, but you will be in a dream-like state, with reduced awareness of the actual procedure. 

Sometimes, patients need to have multiple dental procedures at once. This can be overwhelming for many, but especially stressful for anyone who experiences dental anxiety. IV sedation can last up to several hours if needed, allowing you to save time and minimize the number of repeat appointments. This can be especially helpful with complex treatments such as root canals.

Before choosing a sedation approach, your dentist will check your vital signs (like blood pressure and pulse) and discuss your health history. Once the dental team has the necessary information, they will suggest the best sedation option. 

While you’re sedated, our team constantly measures blood pressure, pulse, and blood oxygen level. It’s incredibly rare, but if any issues arise during the appointment, we immediately stop the procedure and sedation. 

If you have questions or concerns about IV sedation for your next appointment, please call us. We are here to help and support you so you feel as comfortable as possible. Click here to reach out. 

Dental patient in chair at Lewis Estates Dental Centre

FAQs About IV Sedation Dentistry

Will I be unconscious during the procedure?

During IV sedation, you remain conscious. You will be completely relaxed, comfortable, and unaware of your surroundings. If the sounds and smells of the dentist’s office are emotionally challenging, IV sedation is a fantastic option.

Do I need to fast before the IV sedation?

Yes, you need to fast. IV sedation needs to be administered when you have an empty stomach. Avoid eating food for at least six hours before IV sedation. You can drink clear liquids up to two hours before the procedure. 

Can I drive after the IV dental sedation procedure?

While the drowsiness fades relatively quickly, the sedation takes about 24 hours to leave your body completely. Therefore, you should arrange for someone else to drive you home following your appointment. 

Do I need to disclose any medication I may be taking to the dentist before the IV sedation?

Your dentist should take a complete medical history from you before administering the IV sedation. During this conversation, let them know of any medications you’re currently taking, and they’ll know whether or not they are incompatible with the sedation. 

How long will it take for the sedation to wear off?

Once your dental procedure is complete, the drowsy feeling will wear off relatively quickly. However, the sedatives will be in your body for about 24 hours.

How long before I can return to work?

We recommend that you take a break from work for 24 hours. The drowsy effects of the medication wear off quickly, but the sedatives won’t leave your system for about 24 hours. Your dentist will give you more specific instructions following your procedure.

Can children receive IV sedation for dental procedures?

Children can receive IV sedation for dentist appointments. At LEDC we do not offer sedation to children under the age of 12, but we can refer you to a pediatric specialist if we feel your child would benefit from IV sedation.

Reference list

Top Reasons People Skip the Dentist. (n.d) Byte. Retrieved July 20, 2023,  from https://www.byte.com/community/resources/article/reasons-people-skip-the-dentist/ 

Dental Health and Overall Health: 5 Telltale Symptoms. (n.d.) Lewis Estates Dentists Centre website., https://lewisestatesdental.com/blog/dental-health-overall-health-5-symptoms/

Dental Fear Central Web Team. (n.d.) IV Sedation. Dental Fear Central. Retrieved July 20, 2023, from https://www.dentalfearcentral.org/help/sedation-dentistry/iv-sedation/