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Posted: March 14, 2016

How General Anesthesia Differs from IV Sedation


How General Anesthesia Differs from IV Sedation

When you or your child need a dental procedure, likely you’re going to need anesthesia. The options can be confusing. It’s important to know the differences between the different types of sedation and anesthesia, so you can make the right decision for you, and ask the dentist the appropriate questions.

One question that dentists hear a lot is what’s the difference between IV sedation and general anesthesia. It’s a great question since they both involve an intravenous line. To answer it, let’s go through the various types of anesthesia.

Local anesthesia

When you get local anesthesia, it means that the procedure area gets numbed. Usually that’s done with a shot of Novocain, perhaps with some numbing gel applied first with a swab. The local anesthesia doesn’t affect the rest of you, and won’t make you more relaxed. It just means the surgical area won’t hurt during the procedure. These shots are often used for filling cavities, doing root canals or removing teeth.

Conscious or minimal sedation

With sedation, the patient gets a form of anesthesia that relaxes them, making it easier to tolerate a dental procedure. Several substances are used to sedate someone for dental procedure. For kids it’s often nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas. Adults might get nitrous oxide, but they may also take an anti-anxiety pill or a liquid to sedate them. With these types of sedation, the patient is able to breathe independently, so an airway tube isn’t needed, according to the American Dental Association. Like with local anesthesia, this sedation is used for root canals and removing teeth, or for patients who might be anxious or uncooperative during the procedure.

IV Sedation

Intravenous sedation, or IV sedation, makes dental procedures easier to tolerate, especially for nervous patients. It can also make the procedure safer, because the patient is relaxed and will remember less about the procedure. This means less mental trauma, making future dental treatment easier. With IV sedation, the medication is put directly into the patient’s vein, so it is fast-acting and the patient gets a deeper level of sedation. Patients are still conscious during the procedure, but there is some recovery time at the end of the procedure. It’s also used for root canals and removing teeth, and for anxious patients and those who might not cooperate during the procedure.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is the deepest form of sedation, as the patient becomes unconscious during the procedure. That means the patient will have no memory of it. Like with IV sedation, the medication is given through the veins. Patients get a breathing tube to make sure they’re getting the oxygen needed. There’s a longer recovery time after general anesthesia, and the procedure is done at an outpatient facility like a dental surgery center. Dentists certified in anesthesia can administer general anesthesia, as it requires additional training. General anesthesia is recommended for extensive procedures or for patients who are extremely anxious or have issues with cooperation or following directions.

Your dentist at Signature Smiles can talk to you about anesthesia recommendations for your dental procedure. 


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