IV Sedation: What It Is and What It Does

Toronto Smile Centre

IV Sedation: What It Is and What It Does

Dentistry has been making great strides in making patients feel more relaxed during treatments. Sedation dentistry has been a big part of that. By offering sedation services, dentists are able to make long and complex procedures more comfortable, and cater to those with dental anxiety and other conditions that may be affecting whether or not people benefit from dental care. 

Intravenous (IV) sedation is one sedation dentistry method that helps people relax during dental procedures. 

What Is IV Sedation?

IV sedation is a technique in dentistry that uses medicines given directly into the bloodstream through a vein to create a deeply relaxed state. Unlike full anesthesia, IV sedation allows patients to stay awake and communicate with the dentist while feeling very calm. It's especially useful for those who get very anxious about dental visits or for longer and more complex treatments.

Customization and Monitoring

IV sedation can be tailored to each patient. Dentists can adjust the dose to make sure it's just right for the person. During the procedure, vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels are closely watched. This careful monitoring ensures that any issues are noticed and dealt with right away.

Individuals may be deeply sedated and nearly unconscious, or only in a state of twilight sleep, where they can respond to stimuli but aren’t fully aware of their surroundings.

How It Works

Benzodiazepine drugs, including midazolam, are most commonly used for IV sedation. The medications enhance the calming effects of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA helps calm nerve activity in the brain, and when benzodiazepines attach to specific parts of the brain, they increase this calming effect, which reduces anxiety and makes the person feel relaxed.

IV sedation acts quickly because the medicine goes straight into the bloodstream. This speed is helpful in situations where, for immediate relaxation. Dentists can adjust the dosage based on the patient's factors like age, weight, medical history, and the complexity of the dental work.

Is IV Sedation Safe?

A patient's medical history and overall health are carefully reviewed before IV sedation is used, to ensure the patient is a good candidate for sedation. Complications are rare, and dentists follow established guidelines and protocols which helps mitigate risks.

As mentioned earlier, dentists tailor the dosage carefully for the patient, and keep a close eye on vital signs to make sure everything is safe during the procedure. They also monitor whether the patient is calm, looking for relaxed muscles and a peaceful expression to ensure the sedation is working.

dentist dental intervention patient dental clinic concept

Benefits of IV Sedation in Dentistry

IV sedation acts quickly for rapid relief from anxiety The swift relaxation effects are helpful for dental procedures, since nervous patients can be nearly immediately calmed, and patients undergoing complex or extensive treatments can be made more comfortable without increasing treatment time. There are several other benefits to using IV sedation in dentistry, too.

Reducing Severe Anxiety

IV sedation is excellent for calming severe dental anxiety, making the dental experience more positive. The levels can be tailored as necessary. IV sedation is a deeper form of sedation compared to nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or oral sedation methods, so it is a good solution for those with extreme anxiety.

Patient Cooperation

IV sedation allows for better cooperation during dental treatments. Patients are more likely to remain still and calm, allowing the dentist to work better, and improving the overall efficiency of the procedure. Reduced muscle tension enables a smoother execution of dental work, and because the patient is highly relaxed, communication between dentist and patient can be improved.

Helping Patients With Certain Conditions

In addition to patients with dental phobia, patients with strong gag reflexes, restless leg syndrome, or other conditions that may make it difficult for them to have dental work performed on them or stay still for long periods can benefit greatly from sedation. Sedation can make it more possible for these patients to receive the treatment they need.

Speeding Up and Improving Procedures

Because IV sedation works quickly and can be adjusted easily, and patients can stay still and cooperate for longer because of the sedation, dentists can finish procedures faster and more easily. They can also access hard-to-reach areas more easily and work without movements, so they can focus on their work better for better results. You are out faster, and your treatment is likely to be more successful.

surgeons performing operation

Amnesic Effects

IV sedation may cause partial or complete memory loss of the dental procedure, which can be helpful for those who would prefer to not remember dental procedures and find them stressful.


The precise control over dosage allows dentists to tailor the amount of sedative medication based on individual factors such as age, weight, medical history, and other factors for safety and optimal sedation levels.

For sedation dentistry options, speak to your dental care provider and let them know if you have severe dental anxiety or other conditions where sedation may be helpful to you.

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