IV Sedation: Relaxing in the Dentist’s Chair

Woman sleeping on cloud after IV sedation

Does the idea of going to the dentist give you chills? Many people in the Treasure Valley and elsewhere are quite nervous about getting teeth capped, having cavities filled, or even just visiting for a cleaning. That’s why we brought IV sedation to our dental practice in Southeast Boise.

There are several levels of sedation used in dentistry, and you might already be familiar with some of them:

  • Minimal sedation leaves you awake but very relaxed. It’s usually achieved using either nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) or oral medication that helps you deeply relax. While simple to use, oral medication can take a long time to kick in, and it can’t be adjusted during procedures.
  • For moderate sedation, we administer a light sedative through an IV, allowing the medicine to begin its work quickly. Because of the delivery system, the dentist can adjust levels as needed throughout the procedure. Patients are semi-awake and typically have no memory of the procedure even though they are conscious, or nearly so.
  • The goal of deep sedation or general anesthesia is to keep the patient deeply asleep during a procedure. A patient under general anesthesia must be carefully monitored, and this level of sedation often requires that the dental work be performed at another medical facility.

It can be a big jump to go from taking the edge off of a patient’s anxiety to needing general anesthesia, so IV sedation gives us a great, safe middle option.

Questions About IV Sedation

How does IV sedation work?Boise Sleep Apnea check list button

We administer a sedative medicine through an IV, helping patients to feel relaxed or sleepy. This is the “Goldilocks” of sedation options, as patients are relaxed through the procedure but can still respond to instructions if needed. The patient will feel as though they are sleeping in a cozy cloud, and their facial muscles will be relaxed enough to make the dentist’s work much easier.

What if I’m afraid of needles?

Many people are afraid of needles, and this is one of the few reasons patients give for being nervous about IV sedation. While most are ok with the pinching feeling from a needle, if you have trouble, just let your dentist know. We can apply a topical anesthetic where the needle is placed, and you won’t feel it.

Is IV Sedation safe?

In a word, yes.

Dentists who use IV sedation are specially trained for it, and patients are continuously monitored by both the dentist and an assistant. Even though patients won’t remember much, or will think they were asleep during the procedure, they are actually conscious. They can respond if necessary, and natural reflexes still work. IV sedation has an extremely safe track record.

What are the benefits of IV sedation?

As with any form of dentistry, the goal is to help the patient relax, stay comfortable, and not feel pain while they are being treated. Minimal sedation techniques may not be enough for patients undergoing invasive treatments, people who have sensitive teeth, or those who are especially anxious. IV sedation offers a high level of sedation without the risk associated with general anesthesia. It works quickly, so there’s no waiting for the medication to “kick in,” and the dentist can adjust it as needed to keep the patient comfortable. Best of all, the following day patients remember next to nothing of their appointment.

What else should I know about IV sedation?

Prior to a procedure, patients undergo a standard consultation and a preliminary exam. Be sure to include everything in your health history, including medications and supplements, so we can check for any possible drug interactions. You’ll also need to bring a friend or family member on the day of the procedure, to help you get home safely.

Talk to Your Boise Dentist to See If IV Sedation Is Right for You.

For many patients, IV sedation dentistry is a great option when they need dental work. However, each situation is unique. Together we can decide what the best course is for your needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact the Modern Dental team with questions about IV sedation.


-Dr. Royce

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