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Exploring IV Sedation: 4 Common Drugs Used in Dentistry

September 8, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — cordiniperio @ 8:25 pm
A dentist preparing an iv sedation drip

Many people experience dental anxiety which can stem from bad past experiences or fear of pain. Dental phobias are even more severe and can cause complete avoidance of the dentist. This can lead to many oral health problems down the line as small issues get worse. But there is a solution: sedation dentistry.

If you are one of the many people who need dental care but are too afraid to go, IV sedation can offer relief. Continue reading to learn more about sedation dentistry and the four most common drugs used in IV sedation.

What Is Sedation Dentistry?

The general term sedation dentistry refers to the use of sedatives by your dentist to ease your anxiety. There are different levels of sedation in dentistry from mild nitrous oxide to stronger IV sedation.

These methods don’t simply ease anxiety about being at the dentist. They can also help reduce pain, have an amnesiac effect, and speed up your procedure by distorting your sense of time.

What Is IV Sedation?

IV sedation is the deepest form of sedation offered by dentists. It works by way of an IV drip in your arm or hand. The solution is made up of a mix of saline and a special sedative drug.

Once under the effects of the drug, you’ll feel completely relaxed. Many lose awareness of their surroundings and may even have a sense of euphoria or drowsiness. Often, the patient won’t even remember having a procedure at all!

What Are the Most Common IV Sedation Drugs?

The four most common IV sedation drugs are:


Midazolam is a benzodiazepine drug. This anti-anxiety sedative makes patients drowsy and causes amnesia. Midazolam is often the first choice of dentists because it leaves your system faster than some other drugs.


Propofol contains soybean oil, glycerol, and egg lecithin. It may cause pain during injection unless there is an anesthetic mixed with it. The main benefit of propofol is how fast it starts to work: only 90 to 100 seconds.

Propofol requires monitoring during use, and this is why it’s not typically used in a dental practice. You may only encounter the drug in a hospital setting.


Ketamine is a psychedelic drug that can also serve as a sedative. This drug works on the brain to regulate the production of glutamate. This is a receptor in your brain that helps you form connections and allows different parts of your brain to talk to one another.

Of the substances on this list, ketamine is the most experimental as it hasn’t been thoroughly tested by the FDA. It shouldn’t be used on patients under the age of 16.


Dexmedetomidine is potent and administered continuously. It may put the patient to sleep. Yet, in low doses, it only affects breathing and heart rate, lowering anxiety. This allows you and your dentist to continue to communicate.

With these sedatives, dentists can regulate their patients and ensure their comfort throughout a procedure. If you experience dental avoidance due to phobia or extreme anxiety, IV sedation could help you get the treatment you need.

About the Author

Dr. Franco Cordini is a gifted periodontist with years of extensive training. After graduating from Creighton University School of Dentistry, Dr. Cordini completed the specialist training required for periodontics at the University of Louisville. He has since then served his patients for over 20 years, offering top-tier dental care. To schedule an appointment at Cordini Periodontics and Dental Implants, call (502) 425-5010 or visit the website to learn more.

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