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IV Sedation vs General Anesthesia

iv sedation

January 14, 2018

There are a number of reasons patients choose to use some form of sedation when they visit the dentist, the most common being fear or anxiety over their dental visit. In sedation dentistry, medication is used to help patients stay relaxed throughout the procedure. Not only do they not feel anything, but they likely will not remember the procedure at all. Many patients, however, confuse sedation dentistry with general anesthesia. It’s easiest to think of consciousness as a spectrum. At one end, the patient is completely awake and aware. At the opposing end, the patient is under general anesthesia and has no response to stimuli or recollection of their visit. The effects of IV sedation fall somewhere in the middle. With both types of sedation, however, it is important for a designated driver to take patients home after their procedure.

IV Sedation

IV sedation, or intravenous sedation, is when a sedative is administered through a vein, allowing the medication to work very quickly. The level of medication can also be easily monitored and adjusted. The sedation can range from mild to deep, and patients commonly do not remember their dental treatment. Patients are usually unaware of their surroundings, but may still be able to respond to stimulation, such as being asked to open their eyes. It is a safe, effective, and predictable method of sedation. IV sedation is often recommended by dentists to make it easier to relax during longer treatments, such as implant placements, wisdom tooth extractions, and other invasive treatments.

Benefits of IV Sedation

  • IV sedation offers a higher level of sedation than oral or inhalation sedation
  • Since the medication is administered directly into the bloodstream, it has almost an immediate effect on the patient.
  • Amnesia is a common side effect from IV sedation, so patients will likely have no recollection of their visit.
  • Patients remain conscious while under the effects of IV sedation, which makes it a great alternative to general anesthesia in patients who want to avoid the risk of complications that come with general anesthesia.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is a combination of inhaled gases and IV sedation to make patients completely unaware of their surroundings and unresponsive to stimuli. General anesthesia can only be administered by an anesthesiologist, which is an MD specializing in anesthesia. They are not aware of any part of the procedure, nor can they remember it. While under the effects of general anesthesia, a patient can not be easily awakened until the medication wears off. While still a safe method, general anesthesia is not recommended for patients who are obese, are smokers, have diabetes, drug allergies, a history of seizures, or obstructive sleep apnea.

When is General Anesthesia Needed?

Since IV sedation is so effective, general anesthesia isn’t commonly used in dental procedures. Here are a few examples of when general anesthesia may be used instead of IV sedation.

  • In patients who have a high tolerance for medications used in IV sedation, general anesthesia is another option.
  • Some patients require a higher level of sedation when undergoing dental procedures and prefer to be fully unaware of their visit.
  • Children under the age of 12 who need moderate to deep sedation are best treated with general anesthesia by an anesthesiologist.
  • General anesthesia is a popular choice in patients with extreme anxiety, behavioral changes, or disabilities.

Dansville Dental Professionals has an on-site anesthesiologist, meaning we can administer both IV sedation and general anesthesia to our patients. New patients are invited to fill out a new patient form or can contact us today to set up an appointment.