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What are the differences between IV sedation and GA?

Dr Max Sleep Dentistry Hampton

Anaesthesia is used to reduce the ability of the brain to be sensitive to pain but under the umbrella of anaesthesia there are a few different types. The key difference between IV (Intravenous) sedation and GA (General anaesthetic) is the depth of the anaesthesia.

With IV sedation you are anaesthetised to a level where you are always breathing naturally. You are comfortable, sleepy and usually snore through your appointment. You feel happy, as though you have had a fair few alcoholic drinks and are dozing off in front of the television. You do not feel nauseous, just happy and relaxed. As this is a lighter from of anaesthetic, there is a greater degree of safety and a much quicker recovery. IV sedation can safely be provided in day stay centres.

IV sedation is a very appropriate level of anaesthesia for the majority of patients requiring routine or complex dental surgeries. We provide cleaning, fillings, extractions (including complicated wisdom teeth), root canal treatment, crowns and bridges, veneers, implant placement and bone grafting all under IV sedation. It is also ideal for phobic and anxious patients, because they are deeply relaxed and sleepy.

Many people suffer with a difficult gag reflex. This can be embarrassing, uncomfortable and stressful for both patient and their dental team. IV sedation suppresses and switches off the gag reflex which makes dental appointments for those affected extremely comfortable.

Unsurprisingly, a relaxed patient is easier for the dentist to treat and care for. This translates into the dentist being able to create higher quality treatments with stronger results for the patient. This creates a “win-win” situation for both the patient and the dental team.

Treatment is not commenced until the patient is snoozing with some powerful medications, which induce sleep, create euphoria and diminish the ability to feel any pain. Patients usually feel as though they were in our rooms for 15 minutes, when in reality, they have undergone anything from a 1 to 4 hour procedure. The induced amnesia is an amazing side effect of IV sedation.

IV sedation is also very efficient given that you can have multiple dental treatments completed in one visit. This is also a very cost effective option compared to general anaesthetic. With a General Anaesthetic, you are unconscious and ventilators are usually used to support your breathing. There can be more severe medical complications with a GA and therefore GA is a procedure which is best administered in a hospital.

In my opinion, IV sedation should be the preferred choice of anaesthesia for anxious or dental phobic patients, or for those who require complex dental procedures. It is also a great option for those who are time poor, and wish to have their treatments completed in one visit.