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Everything You Need to Know About IV Sedation

June 2, 2014

We have covered some frequently asked questions about IV sedation in an article before but have received more questions from our readers so we decided to have a more thorough run-through on everything you need to know about IV sedation.

Everything You Need to Know About IV Sedation

Intravenous Sedation (aka “IV sedation”) is when a drug, usually of the anti-anxiety variety, is administered into the blood system during dental treatment.

Is it safe? Yes, IV sedation is extremely safe when carried out under the supervision of a specially-trained and highly capable sedation dentist.

How is IV sedation given? “Intravenous” means that the drug is put into a vein. IV sedation requires a small needle to be inserted. Typically, a patient does not even feel the needle. From that point on, sedatives slowly enter the bloodstream. Your pulse and blood pressure are continuously monitored all throughout the procedure to check if you are getting enough oxygen into your bloodstream so don't worry.

What are the sedatives used? The most commonly used drugs for IV sedation are benzodiazepines, or “benzos” for short. These are anti-anxiety sedative drugs. They have these effects: they reduce anxiety/relax you, they make you sleepy, and they produce partial or total amnesia. In some cases, your surgeon may use Propofol in addition to benzodiazepines. The advantage of this is the very rapid recovery time, less than 5 minutes. The drug must be continuously administered to maintain a sedated state.

What does it feel like? Will I be asleep? In reality, you remain conscious during IV sedation. You will also be able to understand and respond to requests from your surgeon. However, you may not remember much (or anything at all) about what went on because of two things: IV sedation induces a state of deep relaxation. As a result, time will appear to pass very quickly and you will not recall much of what happened. Many people remember nothing at all. So it may appear as if you were “asleep” during the procedure.

Is it still necessary to be numbed with local anesthetic? The drugs which are usually used for IV sedation are not painkillers (although some pain-killing drugs are occasionally added), but anti-anxiety drugs. While they relax you and make you forget what happens, you will still need to be numbed. If you have a fear of injections, you will not be numbed until the IV sedation has fully kicked in. If you have a phobia of needles, you will very probably be relaxed enough not to care by this stage.

How does the sedation dentist know whether the painkillers have taken effect? Your dentist will ask you if the local anesthetic has worked. Just because a patient is sedated doesn’t mean he can’t respond to questions.

What are the main advantages of IV sedation? There are so many advantages of IV sedation.

Are there any disadvantages? It is possible to experience complications at the site where the needle was inserted, for example hematoma (a localized swelling filled with blood). You also need to have someone to take you home as sedatives don't wear off immediately after treatment.

How long before the sedative wears off? It varies depending on the patient and depending on the procedure. The sedative can begin to wear off within the first hour, but it is still important that any patient who undergoes sedation take the rest of the day off and get plenty of rest.

Do I really need someone to pick me up? Can’t I just take a cab? It is very important that you arrange to have a responsible adult take you home after your appointment as the sedative will take some time to clear your system.

Am I allowed to eat or drink before sedation? No eating or drinking for 8 hours beforehand. Where a general anesthetic drug like propofol or ketamine or a barbiturate is used, there is a danger that a person who regurgitates food while anesthetized could get food or liquid into their lungs.

What should I do or avoid doing after being sedated? Depending on the treatment performed and the sedation used, here are some things that Dr. Reese might advise you to do:

  • Have someone take you home and rest for the remainder of the day. Have an adult stay with you until you’re fully alert.
  • Don’t perform any strenuous or hazardous activities and don’t drive for the rest of the day.
  • If you experience unusual problems like problems with breathing or palpitations, call our office at 317-882-0228.

What treatments can I be sedated for? Sedation is an option for every treatment that we offer.  If you have anxiety issues, Dr. Reese will be able to suggest the best type of sedation for you.

Whether you are having an implant placed or you are simply a nervous patient, IV sedation makes your visit to our office a completely comfortable experience.  Dr. Reese has been thoroughly trained in all aspects of sedation dentistry, and has been providing IV sedation since 1985.  He was one of the first non specialized, non limited comprehensive dentists to provide this service when licensure first became mandatory in Indiana.

He also has staff  hospital privileges at the St. Francis hospital network for those needing true general anesthesia for complicated health reasons. If you’re thinking about having oral surgery and like the idea of IV sedation, call our staff at 317-882-0228 to talk about setting up an initial consultation appointment.