IV sedation for oral surgery is used to help a patient relax while they undergo their dental treatment. It is also used for longer or more complex dental procedures like tooth extractions and root canals.

IV sedation, which stands for “intravenous sedation,” is a much milder form of sedation than general anesthesia. With IV sedation or conscious sedation, the patient may have little or no memory of the dental procedure and suffers few to no side effects from the sedation itself.

When Is IV Sedation Used In Dentistry?

IV sedation is used for both cosmetic and reconstructive dental procedures. The choice of sedative and the level of sedation will depend on the length of the procedure and the patient’s level of anxiety.

Complex Cosmetic Procedures

IV sedation is often used when placing dental implants, which while being extremely common (almost routine) in places like Beverly Hills, can feel like a long procedure for the patient. Sedation may also be used for pre-implantation procedures like bone grafting surgery. 

While it’s not essential, many cosmetic dentists will also use IV sedation when preparing the patient’s teeth for porcelain veneers and when placing the veneers. For people who feel nervous just thinking about these procedures, sedation can be a game-changer.

Long Dental Procedures

In addition to cosmetic procedures, IV sedation is often used for complicated or long general dentistry procedures, including:

  • Tooth extractions

  • Routine wisdom teeth removal

  • (Multiple) root canals

If you need to have one of these procedures done, you can talk with your dentist about the different sedation options available to see which might be the most appropriate option for you.

Most Commonly Used Drugs for IV Sedation in Dentistry

Several drugs are used in the United States for IV sedation dentistry, including benzodiazepines, opioids, and Propofol. Dentists in other countries may offer different drugs.


The most common class of drugs used for IV sedation in dentistry is benzodiazepines. These anti-anxiety drugs offer three effects that are helpful for oral surgery:

  • Reducing anxiety

  • Inducing sleepiness

  • Producing partial or total amnesia

Midazolam is the benzodiazepine that is most frequently used by cosmetic dentists as a twilight drug because it leaves the patient's system faster. Diazepam is also used by some dentists who offer IV sedation dentistry.


In certain cases, a dentist may choose to administer an opioid intravenously, usually as an additional medication to a benzodiazepine. Opioids offer effective pain relief both during and after the procedure. Opioids that can be used for IV sedation include meperidine, morphine, and fentanyl.


This medication is used to achieve a deeper level of anesthesia than is typically offered in dental offices. The advantage of this medication is that it wears off quickly, allowing the patient to recover faster. However, the use of Propofol requires careful monitoring and a specialized machine; for that reason, it is usually only administered intravenously in hospital settings.

What Are IV Sedation’s Main Benefits for Patients and Dentists?

IV sedation offers a range of benefits for patients and dentists. It also has advantages over sedation options like general anesthesia.

Advantages of IV Sedation for Patients

IV sedation is a slightly deeper form of sedation than minimal sedation. During sedation, the patient feels extremely relaxed but is awake and can still respond to verbal commands. IV sedation is a relatively safe procedure since patients can breathe independently without intervention from a medical specialist.

IV sedation is particularly beneficial for the following patients:

  1. Patients with a high level of dental anxiety

  2. Patients with a strong gag reflex who may find dental procedures uncomfortable

  3. Dental patients who have had a bad experience in the past and prefer to be less aware of the procedure

  4. Patients who, because of physical or mental challenges, cannot sit still in the dental chair for the duration of their procedure

  5. Patients undergoing long procedures

  6. Patients with especially sensitive teeth

Advantages of IV Sedation Over Other Forms of Sedation

Compared to nitrous oxide, oral sedatives, and general anesthesia, conscious IV sedation has several distinct advantages.

  • A deeper level of sedation. IV sedation produces a deeper level of sedation than nitrous oxide.

  • Fast-acting. Intravenous sedatives work faster than oral conscious sedation drugs. The intravenous administration allows the sedative drugs to reach the brain and take effect quickly, usually within a few seconds.

  • Swift recovery. Recovery from IV sedation is typically faster than from oral sedation, meaning that the patient can leave the dental office and go about their life normally soon after the procedure.

  • Amnesic effect. Benzodiazepines, in particular, have the side effect of amnesia, which helps patients not to remember the procedure afterward. This is beneficial for those who suffer from anxiety.

  • Fewer side effects. After IV sedation, patients don’t usually experience many of the side effects that are common with general anesthesia, such as itchiness and confusion.

Please note: Sedation dentistry may not always be the best option for children. The smallest effective dose of anesthesia is advised for pregnant women undergoing emergency dental procedures. Always speak to your oral surgeon about the benefits and risks before undergoing any surgical procedure that requires sedation, and let him or her know if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive.

Advantages of Using IV Sedation For Dentists

  • IV sedation increases efficiency for dentists as well as patients. Dentists can perform several procedures in a single visit, reducing costs for the patient and streamlining the process for the dentist.

  • Because IV sedation doesn't affect bodily processes, dentists can easily identify abnormal reactions during the operation and react quickly.

  • Intravenous administration of sedatives works faster than oral administration, making the entire process quicker from start to end.

  • The dentist benefits from the relaxing effect on uncooperative or unusually anxious patients.

IV Sedation for Oral Surgery: Keeping Patients Relaxed and a Short Recovery Time

IV sedation dentistry offers an excellent solution for people who dread dental visits, as it keeps them feeling calm and relaxed during long or complex oral surgery procedures. Your dentist or primary care physician will recommend IV sedation if they think it is the right option for you, and will happily discuss the available options during your appointment.

Though IV sedation is a safe and effective option, it's important to remember not to drive after your appointment as you may feel groggy for a while after your procedure. You should also tell your dentist if you’re pregnant, have a medical condition, or take any supplements or medications.

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