Answering Common Questions Regarding IV Sedation for Dental Procedures

Is your fear or anxiety about going to the dentist holding you back from going through with important dental procedures? If so, you may benefit from intravenous sedation dentistry.

While it’s important to not neglect your oral health, it’s even more imperative that you feel comfortable while sitting in the dentist chair. But before you and your dentist decide to go through with IV sedation, it’s important that you have all proper information so you can make an informed decision.


What’s Involved in Sedation Dentistry?

Intravenous sedation is a form of anesthesia administered through an intravenous (IV) that helps patients relax during dental procedures.

Before your dentist can prescribe a form of sedation, they will arrange for a consultation to discuss with you why sedation is needed and explain what is involved.

How is the Medication Administered?

The sedative drug will be administered by a needle that is used to insert a tube into your vein, usually on the top of your hand. The tube then administers the sedative drug directly into your bloodstream. The IV will remain in your vein for the duration of your procedure and the dose will be closely monitored.

Can All Dentists Provide Sedation or General Anesthesia?

While all dentists are trained in minimal sedation, only those with the appropriate qualifications can offer moderate sedation to deep anesthesia.

Both the dentist and facility have to meet strict requirements in order to deliver moderate sedation, deep sedation and general anesthesia.

How am I Monitored During the Procedure?

A patient’s vital signs will be monitored while they are under sedation during a procedure. This includes Oxygen saturation, EKG, heart rate, and respiratory rate. Your blood pressure will also be checked before and after sedation.

The dose of sedative will also be closely monitored and adjusted depending on how you respond to the medication.

What Levels of Sedation Are Available to Me?

There are two main levels of sedation that can be administered intravenously during a dental procedure: moderate sedation and deep sedation.

Moderate Sedation

This method is known as conscious sedation because the patient is neither asleep nor unconscious. During the procedure, they will be in a semi-conscious state that will allow them to feel extremely relaxed. With moderate sedation, you should still be able to respond to verbal commands.

This level of sedation is often used for patients with moderate dental anxiety or for people who need to undergo long, complex dental procedures.

Deep Sedation

Deep sedation is used for patients with more severe dental anxiety or who are having longer, more invasive procedures such as oral surgery.

Often described as a ‘controlled state of depressed consciousness,’ this level of sedation allows patients to drift in and out of consciousness during a procedure. Patients typically have no recollection of the treatment and are unable to respond to verbal commands while under deep sedation.

Is it Safe?

While IV sedation is completely safe and poses very little risk to the patient, there are some side effects you might experience.

These side effects include:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Drowsiness after the procedure
  • Headaches
  • Minor bruising, swelling, or bleeding at the site of the IV injection
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

What does it feel like? / What can I expect during the procedure?

Sedation effects will differ from person to person and depends on which level of sedation is administered.

With moderate sedation, you will feel drowsy but still be able to stay awake during the procedure and respond to verbal commands. You will be in a deep state of relaxation, and time will feel like it is passing very quickly, almost as if you are asleep. You will probably not recall much of the procedure afterwards.

With deep sedation, you will be almost unconscious or completely unconscious during the dental procedure. You will not be able to respond to commands without repeated stimulation.

It is also likely that you will not have any recollection of the procedure.

What are the effects of sedation or general anesthesia?

Depending on the level of sedation, it is common to feel drowsy after a procedure and have limited memory.

For patients that undergo either moderate or deep sedation, your coordination and reasoning skills could be affected for up to 24 hours after the procedure. For this reason, you will need a friend, spouse, or family member pick you up after your appointment and drive you home.

Why is my dentist recommending sedation for my child?

A dentist may recommend sedation for a child due to a variety of factors, including age—young children tend to have trouble cooperating during a dental procedure. The length, invasiveness, and complexity of the procedure would also be considered.

What type of sedation is available for children?

Children can undergo dental treatment under most levels of sedation, up to general anesthesia.

Speak with your dentist about the best sedation options for your child.

How Should I Prepare for IV Sedation?

Be sure to make arrangements for someone to drive you home after your procedure. The effects of the anesthesia can last several hours after your appointment, so you will be unable to drive yourself home.

You also will not be able to eat or drink for at least six hours before your appointment. This includes clear fluids like water, coffee, and juice.

Wear comfortable clothing and a shirt with short sleeves to your appointment. This will make it easier to administer the IV. You shouldn’t wear contact lenses, lipstick, or heavy makeup.

Post Operative instructions

After your procedure, avoid driving and operating any mechanical or electrical machinery and devices for at least 12 hours.

Your judgement may also be affected by the sedation, so avoid making important decisions or signing important documents for 24 hours.

Get plenty of rest and avoid any serious activity for the rest of the day. Avoid consuming alcohol or any other sedative drugs for 24 hours.

If you experience dental anxiety or fear going to the dentist and think you could benefit from IV sedation dentistry, contact a dental professional to discuss your options.