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Learn all about IV sedation dentistry with Costa Mesa, CA area dentist, Dr. Thomas Rolfes, and his team

IV Sedation Dentistry in Costa Mesa CA area

Dr. Thomas Rolfes, dentist at Smiles4OC in Costa Mesa, CA, is dedicated to helping improve and maintain patients’ oral health, and is always ready to help patients learn about the different types of treatments available. From general to restorative dentistry, Smiles4OC has it all! We understand that many patients of all ages have anxiety about visiting the dentist for the services necessary to keep their mouths healthy. This is why we provide sedation dentistry when needed, including IV sedation for patients with moderate to severe dental anxiety, and we take the time to educate our patients about how it can help.

Why sedation dentistry?

At Smiles4OC, we understand that dental anxiety may occur for a variety of reasons. We know that some patients have a fear of the unknown, anxiety over pain and discomfort, or have possibly had a negative experience with a dental professional in the past. Whatever the reason for a patient’s anxiety, it is necessary for Costa Mesa, CA area patients to see their dentist on a regular basis for routine care, and also to receive treatment when problems arise. Dental anxiety can keep patients from getting the care they need, which is why our team offers sedation options such as IV sedation.

What is IV sedation?

IV sedation is a proven, effective way to help enhance a patient’s comfort during a dental procedure. It can also be used to prevent pain and ease severe anxiety around visiting the dentist’s chair. This method of sedation is administered intravenously, which puts it directly into the blood stream to provide strong and effective sedation.

This is often done when patients are not experiencing enough sedation with oral conscious sedation or nitrous oxide, and is often saved for the most anxious of patients. It is also used when patients are having extensive work done that may require lots of time in the dental chair, just to put the patient at ease throughout their procedure.

This sedative method is administered through a catheter that is placed into a blood vein in the arm. It may be combined with oral sedation, which is taken prior to visiting the dental office to put patients at ease before they undergo IV sedation.

IV sedation allows the dentist to provide dental care for even the most fearful of patients, as it essentially puts them into a deeper rest that does not hinder the dentist’s ability to care for the patient.

Is IV sedation the same as general anesthesia?

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It is important for patients who are considering IV sedation to understand that this method of sedation is not the same as general anesthesia. In fact, it is significantly different. General anesthesia puts patients into a state of sleep that they cannot be awakened or aroused from, even with pain. This type of sedation often requires a professional to provide additional breathing support and requires a medical doctor called an anesthesiologist to monitor a patient’s vital signs throughout their treatment, including pulse, heart rate, and blood pressure. These vital signs need to be monitored to ensure that there are no risks, keeping safety the utmost priority.

However, with the use of IV sedation, patients are not actually in a deep sleep in the same way they would be using general anesthesia. Instead:

  • Patients are in a semi-awake state that greatly reduces anxiety
  • In most cases, patients have no memory of their treatment
  • Patients are able to respond to physical touch and verbal commands
  • Patients do not require additional assistance to monitor breathing, heart function, and other vital signs

Can IV sedation be used for any type of dental appointment?

While we typically reserve IV sedation for patients who are having extensive and invasive procedures, we do have certain patients who greatly benefit from IV sedation to get them into the office for their appointment and through their dental procedures. At Smiles4OC, we will determine the best sedation method for a patient based on their self-report of anxiety during a consultation visit.

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Many of our patients are able to handle oral conscious sedation well, allowing them to take a prescription medication before they arrive at the office that can keep them calm and free from anxiety throughout their procedure. However, there are situations in which we may recommend IV sedation, especially for certain patients who may have medical conditions that can make it difficult for them to stay still during their treatment, or those who have severe anxieties that can keep them from getting the care they require.

What to expect before, during, and after IV sedation at Smiles4OC

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Our doctors will walk patients through the process of sedation with an IV so that they are well aware of what to expect when they make their visit to our dental chair.

Before – Before patients undergo IV sedation, they need to work with our team to determine if it is the best solution for their level of anxiety. This is done during an initial consultation appointment, where our dental team will assess the patient’s needs and make recommendations based on their discussion with the patient. Once a patient has decided to move forward with their treatment in conjunction with IV sedation, we will thoroughly review their medical and dental history to decide candidacy. Patients will need to make arrangements before their appointment with a friend or family member to ensure that they have transportation to and from the dental office, especially if they are taking oral conscious sedation prior to arriving. Patients should not eat or drink anything after midnight the day of the treatment and should wear comfortable clothing to their visit to make it easier for the dentist to administer the IV. Patients should avoid wearing jewelry, contact lenses, and oral appliances during their visit unless requested by the dentist. Additionally, if patients are taking prescription medications, they should speak to their dental provider in advance to determine whether they should temporarily stop taking these medications prior to their treatment in the event they may react with the medication given during IV sedation.

During – During sedation, patients are closely monitored by our dental staff. We use electronic equipment to watch a patient’s blood pressure, oxygen levels, heart rate, and heart function throughout the entire procedure. Patients will often be responsive to our dental team, but these conversations are often long-forgotten well after the dental visit. This makes treatments with IV sedation appropriate for patients who may be worried about remembering their procedure.

After – After the procedure is complete, the IV will be removed, which will allow the patient to slowly awaken from their state of sedation. We monitor patients immediately after their treatment to ensure that it is safe for them to go home. The person responsible for transporting a patient home will be given the post-treatment instructions and specific home care instructions in regard to what the patient can eat and drink, and what to do if certain issues arise. It is typically okay for patients to eat and drink once they return home as long as the numbing anesthetics have worn off to ensure it is safe and they are able to chew and swallow properly. Patients may become dehydrated, so they should take in plenty of water when they are healing from their procedure. Patients who have soreness may be able to address discomfort with over-the-counter pain medications as recommended by our staff at Smiles4OC.

What other methods of sedation are available at Smiles4OC?

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While IV sedation is incredibly effective at helping patients who are experiencing dental anxieties, it is not the only type of sedation available at our dental practice. Our practice is also pleased to provide alternatives for patients to consider. We educate our patients on the types of sedation dentistry available so they can make an educated decision about which type is best for their specific level of anxiety. Other sedation methods include:

  • Nitrous oxide – Often referred to as “laughing gas,” this odorless and colorless gas is administered through the nasal passages during a patient’s visit to the dental chair, relaxing them enough to address mild anxieties and additional issues such as strong gag reflexes.
  • Oral conscious sedation – This is a method of sedation that is achieved with oral medication taken prior to the appointment. Patients arrange transportation to and from the office with a friend or family member as they are not to drive while under the influence of this prescription. Oral conscious sedation is often used in conjunction with IV sedation, relaxing a patient before they even get to the office.
  • General anesthesia – In rare cases, we may provide dental treatment with a patient under general anesthesia. This is done with the help of an anesthesiologist that comes into our practice to administer the anesthetic and monitor the patient while they are undergoing their treatment. This is saved for extreme cases of anxiety or for patients who are having extensive amounts of work done in the smile in one visit and may need a more powerful level of anesthetics to complete their procedure.

Take charge of your anxiety today and ask our team about IV sedation

If you experience severe dental anxiety and are ready to speak to a professional about sedation dentistry options, we encourage you to book an appointment with Dr. Thomas Rolfes and his team at Smiles4OC. Call (714) 557-0700 today to schedule your consultation appointment at 1530 Baker St., Suite J in Costa Mesa, CA.


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