What is IV sedation and how does it work?

IV sedation stands for Intravenous(IV)Sedation.  The IV is placed so that drugs can be administered via the blood system.  You are not “put to sleep” with IV sedation rather medication is given to you so that you relax, feel at peace, have no worries and no memory of the experience.  If anything is remembered usually the details are very blurry and of no consequence.  The medication used is similar to the medication you would receive at a doctors visit for an upper or lower GI evaluation.  Twilight sleep or MAC can and do have elements of IV sedation.  Drugs that could cause rapid respiratory depression are not used.

Would you benefit from IV Sedation?

Learn more about Sedation Dentistry and who benefits from it the most.

How does IV sedation dentistry feel?

It feels great.  Nice warm feeling, relaxed knuckles.  It makes going and getting dental work done easy and comfortable.  The best experience that I can kinda relate it to is staying up all night and feeling very tired.  You sit in a comfortable chair and lean your head back your eyes may close and you feel very relaxed.  The difference is that instead of being so tired that you can’t be waken up, with IV sedation you are able to easily respond to questions and open your eyes.

Some people use the term “sleep dentistry” or “twilight sleep” for this reason. You remain conscious as far as being able to respond to the Dentist and staff but the memory recall database in your brain is inactivated.  Thus you are asleep in the memory part of the mind but not in the action, reaction part.  This response of the mind due to the chemicals affecting it will make it seem as if time were passing by very quickly and of course little to no memory of the experience.

A typical sedation experience goes something like this:

  • You’ll take a sedative medication one hour before your dental appointment
  • You arrive at dental office and are brought back to the dental operatory feeling completely relaxed and possibly a little sleepy.
  • The doctor and staff attach all the monitoring equipment
  • Baseline records are taken
  • Laughing gas is placed over your nose…you get even more relaxed.
  • IV is started and medication given
  • Doctor gives a numbing medicine for your teeth (most patients don’t even remember this!) and the dental work is completed
  • The next thing you know, you’re being told the procedure is complete and Dr. Sekulic and his staff are assisting you to your car
  • You may remember being in the car as you travel home, but this is unlikely
  • You will most likely sleep at home and wake later in the day.
  • The whole appointment and day will have passed by in a flash.  Your teeth are fixed and if you’re like most patients, you’re extremely excited and relieved that it’s all over.

Why do I still have to get my lip and tongue all numb for the dental treatment?

The drugs administered through the IV are great for some things but remember your mind and your action reaction center is not turned off like it would be for a General Anesthesia type appointment.  Even with a GA many Doctors will numb certain areas that they are working on because it helps keep your automatic brain more relaxed and quiet.  Most of the drugs used in an IV Sedation are not painkiller type drugs but rather anti anxiety.

The great thing about IV Sedation is being able to give you the “needle” after you have a good amount of medication on board.  You won’t feel much because we will still be as gentle as if you were awake.  Before we actually start the work we can verify that you are numb indeed.

The IV

The IV consists of a needle and a flexible catheter.  A vein not an artery is used for it’s placement.  To get a good location identified a thick rubber band is placed on the arm to get the veins all puffed up.  An alcohol wipe is used to clean up the area and then the needle with the flexible catheter is placed.  Once a good draw back is seen in the flash chamber the needle is slowly withdrawn and the catheter is slowly advanced.  Pressure is held, the IV tubing with solution is attached and everything is taped down.


Newer monitoring devices are very advanced and have all the features needed to provide a great and safe IV Sedation experience.  Blood pressure, blood oxygenation(pulse oximeter) and a heart rhythm monitor.  The pulse oximeter attaches to your finger typically and measures your pulse and how much oxygen is in your blood.  These early detection devices help ensure that your brain continues to receive all the necessary oxygen it needs to function properly.  Alarms are programmed to go off if your body starts to react in an unfavorable way.  We are then able to take immediate corrective action.

Medication used during the treatment

The most common medication used is Versed ( midazolam).  Other medications are added that are for pain, more sedation, anti swelling and nausea medication.

Is there anything to worry about in regards to IV sedation?

The way that IV sedation is done it is extremely safe.  More people are dangerously self medicating at the local adult beverage dispensary.  When you have someone that has been well trained and has good experience you can feel comfortable that you will be well taken care of.  Of course a meeting with us and thorough health history evaluation and exam is needed to determine if you are a suitable candidate for IV sedation.

Why is IV sedation a superior method for Sedation Dentistry?

Having IV access is the key. We can immediately add more medication, reverse medication or provide emergency medication quickly and effectively. If you really don’t want to know what is going on this is the preferred method.

Oral sedation dentistry works well, but is not as predictable as with IV sedation dentistry because:

  • The sedation experience can be deeper and more effective with IV Sedation.
  • Amnesia is virtually guaranteed.
  • Ideal for any particular need you have in regards to fear or phobia in the dental office.
  • Ultimate gag control.  If you don’t think that Laughing Gas will do the trick, IV sedation will certainly provide you with the confidence you need to get through the procedure and not gag.

Disadvantages of IV Sedation Dentistry

While a few do exist, as in any situation, the trade off is well worth.  Complications can occur with the IV placement and lingering effects of sedation render that day relegated to sleeping or watching TV.  Of course you may not get to the point of ever getting away from needing IV Sedation for dental treatment.

However, if you take care of the work that was done you should be in good shape for a long time.  We still encourage regular dental checkups that may be able to be managed with Laughing Gas or Oral Sedation.  Both of which are less expensive.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in to help you receive the vital dental care your mouth needs,contact our office at (513) 896-1573 for a free dental evaluation and consultation.


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