Is IV Sedation Dentistry Right for You?

Many people accept that, while visits to the dentist aren't exactly fun, they are a part of life. But for some people, the idea of visiting a dentist is enough to fill them with anxiety and dread. In fact, 15 percent of the population in the United States experience some form of dental anxiety. Fortunately, sedation dentistry, which ranges from inhaling nitrous oxide to IV sedation dentistry, is an option to help ease anxiety and make you feel more comfortable during your visit. If you're a patient struggling with dental anxiety, be sure to consult your oral team before deciding on the right solution.

What Is IV Sedation Dentistry?

The type of sedation that you receive at a dentist's office varies based on your level of anxiety and the type of exam or procedure you are having. IV sedation, also known as conscious sedation, is a sort of middle ground and it doesn't fully put you to sleep. It does make you less aware of what is going on around you during your procedure or treatment. While some forms of sedation are inhaled (like nitrous oxide) or are taken in pill form, IV sedation is administered through intravenously through a vein.

As a 2016 article in the Australasian Medical Journal (AMJ) points out, IV sedation is usually reserved for patients who are very anxious about a dental visit. It works quickly, it's easy to adjust the dose given, and the sedative has a long period of amnesia, meaning you won't remember what happened during your dental visit or treatment. One drawback of IV sedation is that a dentist needs to be well-trained in the administration of it, meaning that not every dental practice offers it as an option.

Preparing for IV Sedation

You will have to make some adjustments to your habits and activities before getting IV sedation during a dental visit. The American Society of Dentist Anesthesiologists recommends not eating or drinking anything at least eight hours before your visit or procedure. Your dentist can provide you with more specific details on eating and drinking, including when to stop, based on the time of your visit.

Although IV sedation won't put you completely under, you are likely to feel pretty groggy or out of it for some time after your visit. Have a friend or family member bring you to the dentist and, more importantly, drive you home afterward. It's a good idea to avoid scheduling anything for the rest of the day so you can rest.

Your dentist will give you specific instructions about any medications you might take. You may have to stop taking some medicines before your visit.

During the Exam

You won't be fully asleep during your visit or procedure when you receive IV sedation. But you won't really be aware of what's going on, either. You may be able to follow basic commands and will respond if the dentist touches you. You'll also be able to breathe on your own and won't need to have your heart rate monitored. If your dentist is performing a procedure that requires a local anesthetic, such as filling a cavity, the anesthetic will be given after the sedation has taken effect.

Are You a Candidate for IV Sedation?

If you are generally in good health but fear going to the dentist or feel anxious when you are at the dentist, sedation might help you get your teeth cleaned so you can maintain or improve your oral health. Some people are more likely to experience adverse effects due to sedation, as the AMJ notes. Older people and people with other health conditions have an increased risk for side effects. Often, dentists will give older people a smaller dose of the sedative to lower the risk of negative effects.

Your dentist is the person who's best equipped to help you decide whether or not IV sedation is the right option for you. It might be that another option, such as inhaled sedation, makes more sense for you. If it's been a while since you've seen your dentist, call the practice and ask if it offers dental sedation in any form and if it's a good pick for you.

To avoid needing a major dental procedure in the first place, adopt great oral hygiene habits. Brush twice daily with a toothpaste like Colgate Total Advanced Deep Clean which fights germs for 12 hours.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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  1. Preparation – If you need local anesthesia, your dentist will dry part of your mouth with air or use cotton rolls. Then your dentist will swab the area with a gel to numb the skin.

  2. Injection – Next, your dentist will slowly inject the local anesthetic into the gum tissue. Most people don't feel the needle. Instead, the sting they feel is caused by the anesthetic moving into the tissue.

  3. After effects – An injection of local anesthesia can last up to several hours. After you leave the dentist's office, you may find it difficult to speak clearly and eat or drink. Be careful not to bite down on the area that is numbed. You could cause damage to yourself without realizing it.