IV Sedation Dentistry

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IV Sedation Dentistry

What is IV Sedation Dentistry?

If it’s difficult for you to imagine a trip to the dentist that’s relaxing and pain-free, sedation dentistry might help change your mind. It’s often called “sleep dentistry” or “relaxing dentistry” because the purpose is to help you feel at ease while the dentist provides needed dental care.

Dental anxiety keeps millions of patients away from the dentist every year. What many people don’t know is that sedative dentistry can help ease dental fears and anxieties by helping you to feel relaxed during procedures. Sedative dentistry is also helpful for people who:

  • Have a low tolerance for pain
  • Have very sensitive teeth
  • Have a bad gag reflex
  • Can’t sit still in the dentist’s chair
  • Need a large amount of dental work done at once

What makes sedative dentistry so ideal is that it virtually eliminates the pain associated with dental procedures. Some forms don’t even involve needles!

Sedative dentistry consists of several different techniques, including oral sedation dentistry and IV sedation dentistry, which leave you mildly relaxed but conscious and aware of your surroundings; and general anesthesia, which puts you completely asleep.

IV Sedation 101

IV — intravenous, or in the vein. This is often referred to as sleep dentistry. This is a common misnomer, as sleep dentistry brings to mind thoughts of being put to sleep. In fact, this is not the case. You will remain conscious during IV sedation. You will be able to understand and respond to any requests from your dentist.

IV sedation is perfect for those with dental anxiety because of the side effects that accompany this type of sedative. This process produces partial or even full memory loss (amnesia of the dental experience) in the patient.

This works really well for both the dentist and the patient. As the patient, you will be aware of what is happening on a purely detached level. You can answer questions, accommodate requests and generally do what you’re told.

Simultaneously, the influx of drugs in your arm (or hand) will give you a peaceful feeling. Basically, you won’t be bothered in the least by any poking or prodding. As a bonus — you’ll remember virtually nothing!

This is nice for your dentist as well. He or she will be able to monitor your pulse and oxygen levels with a handy-dandy “pulse oximeter.” The dental care team will be able to monitor any ill effects the drug may have on your central nervous system. A blood pressure machine is also monitored to ensure your safety.

Drug Basics on the IV

The pharmaceuticals used for dental IV sedation are not narcotics. That means they do not dull your senses. Instead, the drug used for sedation is in the benzodiazepine (benzos) family. In a nutshell, IV sedation relies on an anti-anxiety sedative to provide patients the comfort they need.

IV sedation may ease your anxiety, but it won’t prevent pain. That means you’ll still need a local anesthetic before your procedure begins. Since people who choose this kind of sedation are likely afraid of the needle, local anesthesia can easily be administered once the dental IV drug has taken effect.

In addition to the sedative, some dentists add in a strong pain-killer, such as Morphine and Demerol, to the IV. These drugs help prevent discomfort and post-operative pain.

Amnesia for Every Visit

If this sounds great to you and you’d like to forget every dental experience, it is important to realize the advantages and disadvantages of dental IV sedation.


  • Eliminates memory of the dental procedure
  • Dental IV drug dosage will be exactly measured for the individual
  • This type of sedation is deeper than oral sedation (Valium) or inhalation (laughing gas) sedatives
  • Gag reflex is diminished
  • Great for those with dental anxiety


  • $220-$390 per hour
  • Needle site can become inflamed
  • Escort required — you will need to be driven to and from the dental procedure
  • Can consciously fight IV drugs, making it harder to become successfully sedated
  • Does not deal with your fear of dentists

Ask your dentist to explain all of your options. Pay close attention to your after-care instructions, as you will want to be aware of any side effects that might be the result of the IV sedative.

Interested in finding a Sedation Dentist? Call 1-800-DENTIST today to book your next appointment!