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For many patients, the thought of going to the dentist triggers very real feelings of anxiety and fear. These feelings may be the result of prior traumatic experiences or they may simply be general apprehension about the unknown; whatever the cause, anxiety should never prevent you from taking care of your teeth and gums. Poor oral health has direct links to overall health, which is why dentists offer their patients a variety of sedation options that make it possible for everyone to get the dental care they need without anxiety or fear.

One of the sedation options you may hear about or read about is IV sedation. If your general family dentist offers general sedation dentistry in Houston, TX, the sedation they are talking about is IV sedation, sometimes also called conscious sedation. The term IV sedation is a bit confusing, as most people mistake IV (intravenous) sedation with the general anesthesia used in hospitals and operating rooms. While it’s true that some general anesthesia is administered via IV, IV sedation and general anesthesia are two very different things. The following is a closer look at the facts to help better understand the differences.

Sedation versus Anesthesia

First of all, sedation and anesthesia are not the same. Sedatives are given to produce a state of calm, relaxation, and even sleep. Anesthetics are used to prevent pain. There are different levels of each depending on the patient and what’s required. Sedatives can be mild, moderate, or deep, serving to either simply calm a patient or put them completely to sleep. Patients under sedation will still feel some pain, but will be relaxed enough to not be upset by it and will quite often not remember anything about the pain once the sedation has worn off. Conversely, anesthetics alone do not provide any calming effects and they also vary in strength; local anesthetics like Novocain are given to numb the pain in one specific area while general anesthesia produces total and reversible muscle paralysis and unconsciousness. Both IV sedation and general anesthesia use a combination of sedatives and anesthetics to help make patients more comfortable during medical procedures.

General Anesthesia versus IV Sedation

With a clear understanding of the separate roles of sedatives and anesthetics, it’s easier to understand the differences between IV sedation and general anesthesia.

General Anesthesia: General anesthesia is administered using a combination of oral sedatives, IV medications, and inhaled gases to make patients completely unconscious and unable to respond. All muscles are paralyzed, and the cardiovascular and respiratory systems are depressed, requiring the patient to receive assistance with breathing. At the end of the procedure, additional medications are given to reverse the effects. Patients under general anesthesia do not feel, see, hear, or remember anything, and they cannot respond in any way. Careful monitoring is required, and recovery can take hours or even days as the medications work their way out of the patient’s system.

IV Sedation: During IV sedation, sedatives are administered via IV, so they take effect very quickly. The IV also allows the dentist to make adjustments easily, administering more sedative as needed. The dentist will also typically use local anesthetics such as Novocain to numb the pain. While under the effects of IV sedation, patients are often semi-awake and able to communicate with the dentist. The sedatives wear off quickly and most patients are not able to remember anything that happened. IV sedation offers a higher level of sedation than oral medications without the risks associated with general anesthesia.
IV sedation is a wonderful advancement in the world of dentistry. Because of IV sedation, dental work is more comfortable and less likely to trigger fear. If you’re interested in how IV sedation can help you, talk your general family dentist in Houston, TX, at Made Ya Smile. IV sedation is sure to make you smile!