The fact that many people avoid going to the dentist is not a big secret. But regardless of busy schedules, expensive costs, or inconveniences, dental care must not be overlooked. Trying to skip out on dental appointments may eventually lead to more serious conditions. For people who have dental anxiety or phobia however, visiting the dentist could be a horrifying task. This is why dentists offer different forms of sedation.
While inhalation and oral sedation may be the easy way, there are cases when these are not enough to calm the patient for the dental procedure. For those who do not wish to undergo general anesthesia, the best way would be through IV sedation.
IV or intravenous sedation dentistry is a method used to help the patient relax by using medication inserted through the vein by a needle in order to perform a dental procedure. The sedative, usually benzodiazepines, or “benzos” for short, is administered through a soft tube which is inserted by use of a needle either at the back of the hand or the inner elbow. For those who are afraid of needles, inhalation sedation with nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) may be taken. An alternative may be a numbing cream.
IV sedation dentistry is sometimes called “sleep dentistry”, which is a common misconception since the patient is not actually asleep during the procedure. In fact, the patient is able to respond to the dentist while under medication but in a completely calm state. Another advantage of IV sedation dentistry is its rapid effect, compared to oral sedation which takes at least an hour to kick-in. The dentist may also adjust the levels of sedation during the process.
Not everyone can undergo IV sedation dentistry though. Those who are pregnant, breast-feeding, with severe diseases, allergies to the medication, obese or anorexic, with glaucoma, elderly, alcohol or drug dependent, or with heart problems, must not undergo IV sedation.
Like any other operation, IV sedation dentistry comes with risks, which is why extra precaution is taken. Dentists who can perform IV sedation must be certified to do so after completing special training, and have the proper equipment. Before operation, the dentist assesses if the patient is suitable for the procedure. The dentist gives instructions for the patient to follow, and explains the risks that come with the method. During sedation, the patient is constantly monitored by the dentist and an assistant, in terms of oxygen levels, blood pressure, and heart rate. After the procedure, the patient must be brought home by another person, and be looked after until fully alert. It takes about 24 hours for the effect of the sedative to wear off, so the patient must follow post-operative instructions given by the dentist.
After the sedative has worn off, patients may remember very little, or may forget the whole procedure, which is due to the amnesic effect of the sedative. This is one more reason IV sedation dentistry is suitable for patients with dental anxiety or phobia.