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Is There a Difference Between Oral Sedation and IV Sedation?

Oral Sedation is usually an oral medication or pill that you swallow, often lorazepam or triazolam taken an hour or so before your dental procedure. I’ve performed some fairly extensive procedures with oral sedation, so it is very useful in the right situation and for the appropriate patient.

But, when a patient wants a deeper level of sedation, oral sedation has its’ limitations. If I’ve started a procedure for one of my patients and they tell me they want to be “more asleep”, the only option I have with Oral Sedation is to grind up a tablet of medication and sprinkle it under their tongue. This normally takes a minimum of 20 minutes before the patient starts feeling the effect of whatever medication I gave them.

So, for those patients who are only mildly afraid, and don’t mind knowing a little about what’s going on around them and just wants to be lightly sedated, then Oral Sedation can work well for them.

However, if I have a patient who is very fearful, anxious and has a long history of bad experiences, they will do better with a deeper sedation (moderate) where the patient remembers nothing of their appointment. IV Sedation is the better choice for this kind of patient.

There are a lot of dentists who advertise that they offer Oral Sedation Dentistry. I will explain here the difference between IV Sedation and Oral Sedation so you can decide for yourself what you want when having your dental care.

Some patients are comfortable and do very well being awake, but just lightly sedated during their care. Others would prefer being completely unaware and more moderately sedated. In between these two extremes are several variations.

There are several options with Sedation Dentistry that range between Nitrous Oxide, Oral Conscious Sedation and IV Sedation. Deciding on which option is right for you depends on the following points:

  • The level of fear you have when you think about having a dental procedure done.
  • If you are only mildly anxious when seeing a dentist you might do well with Conscious Sedation Dentistry. However, if you are “up tight” with fear when thinking about drills, bad tastes, noises or pain you might want to consider IV Sedation, because it can give you a deeper level of sedation that Oral Sedation cannot.
  • Your health history might affect what method is best for you. Discuss your health history with your dentist.
  • The best method to keep you comfortable for the procedure you are considering.
  • There are Several Levels of Oral and IV Sedation

  • Nitrous Oxide (Laughing Gas or Happy Gas)
  • Oral Conscious Sedation
  • Intravenous (I.V.) Sedation
  • Nitrous Oxide
    Nitrous oxide is a gas that is generally used to help you be more relaxed during your dentistry. It is breathed in through a small nose piece. Its’ effects wear off within minutes after use. You can drive yourself home afterwards.

    It is best used for patients with mild anxiety in the dental office or for short, uncomplicated dental treatments.

    Oral Conscious Sedation
    Most Oral conscious sedation is done with oral medications (pills). While you’ll still be “conscious” during this level of sedation, you’ll be very relaxed, drowsy and be less aware of what is going on around you. It offers a deeper level of relaxation or sedation than nitrous oxide. People react differently to medications. This makes oral medication harder to administer and to predict how the patient will do during the procedure. Also, the effects of the pill do not take effect immediately, so adjusting the level of sedation quickly during a procedure is difficult. We use oral conscious sedation with patients who have mild fear about having their dentistry done, have a light gag reflex or when dental procedures are fairly short in duration.

    Many dentists advertise “sedation dentistry”, but in reality they only offer Oral Sedation Dentistry, which we call Oral Conscious Sedation. We see many patients in our office who come to us and say that they have tried Oral Sedation in other offices, but they still had trouble with gagging, or they could still hear a lot of what was going on around them. They come to us asking for a deeper level of sedation. We have many dentists refer patients to us because they tried Oral Sedation and the patient still struggled with getting through the procedure comfortably.

    Intravenous (I.V.) Sedation
    I.V. Sedation is one of the best developments for scared dental patients in many years. It produces a more moderate level of sedation, usually within just a few minutes. Patients can have their dentistry done without feeling pain or noticing the smells, tastes or noises of their dental care. Using I.V. Sedation is quick, predictable and the level of sedation can easily adjusted during treatment. In addition, because the patient is more deeply sedated, long procedures are easily completed without the need for numerous visits.

    I.V. Sedation is usually a good option for those with moderate to severe fear of dentistry. It is also a useful method of sedation when the treatment is prolonged or complicated because it allows these treatments to be completed in one or two visits.

    What This Means for You!

    If you are one of the millions of Americans who avoid the dentist, mostly because of fear, treatment is now much easier because of IV Sedation! Experience no pain or any of the other things that typically keep people from seeing the dentist!

    I’ve put off the dentistry I’ve needed for so long that I’m ashamed of the condition of my mouth. How do I
    know I won’t get a lecture when I finally go in for treatment?

    Check around. Offices that treat fearful and phobic patients have a sensitivity for your situation and feelings. Ask friends, family and co-workers about their experiences with the particular dentist you are considering. If you are very afraid, check and see if IV Sedation is offered.

    Look at websites and see what type of dentistry is being offered. Look for testimonials about how others have been treated. Many doctors have video testimonials of patients who have been treated in their office. See if you are comfortable talking to the dentist. Your gut feeling is usually right.

    The dentist should be compassionate, understanding of your fears and willing to offer you solutions and treatments that fit you, your desires and budget.

    The Advantages to having IV Sedation are:

  • You can have dentistry completed in one or two visits that might have required 6-8 visits in the past.
  • Regardless of your level of fear, anxiety or phobia, there is a level of sedation appropriate for you.
  • You do not need to tolerate bad breath, pain with chewing or be self conscious about your smile any longer.
  • No matter what condition your mouth is in, you should never be scolded or lectured by a dentist or hygienist. Dentists that permit or do this are not understanding of your fears, nor are they appreciative of your trust.
  • You have a right to find a dentist who offers the full spectrum of sedation dentistry. Don’t settle for one that only offers Oral Sedation.
  • If you have fears, anxiety or phobias towards dentists or treatment, you do not have to get over your fear before seeking treatment.
  • You have a right to be treated in a compassionate, understanding manner and should feel comfortable discussing your fears, anxiety and phobias with your dentist, and he or she should not only understand them but offer treatment and sedation that is appropriate for you.
  • Most of our patients want to complete their dental procedures in as few visits as possible. IV Sedation allows us to accomplish a lot of dental work in a short time. Often, it can ensure one to two visits versus multiple returns.
  • Despite fears, anxiety or phobias you have the right to a healthy mouth, eating whatever you desire and a beautiful smile. You can have that now without pain, bad tastes, gagging or unpleasant noises or smells.
  • IV Sedation is a wonderful breakthrough for those suffering from dental anxiety and fear.
  • Dr. Receveur enjoys helping those with fears, anxieties and phobias overcome their avoidance of dental treatment. He also believes everyone, regardless of fears, past experiences or the current condition of their teeth has the right to a beautiful smile and comfortable bite. He has taken the time and expense to become certified in I.V. Sedation Dentistry. He is the only restorative dentist in Southern Indiana to do so.