Intravenous sedation

Sedation for dental treatment

Intravenous sedation is given through a plastic tube into a vein in your arm or hand. This makes you feel deeply relaxed during dental treatment. 

You will be awake for your treatment and can talk to your dental team. However, many people do not remember much about their treatment.

It is important that you know the type of treatment you are having, and how to prepare before your sedation.


Some people take a little time to recover after sedation. You will need to stay in the hospital until you can walk by yourself.


It is important that you have someone with you who can take you home and stay with you for the rest of the day while you recover from sedation

Preparing for sedation

You must have a responsible adult to take you home after your treatment, and stay with you at least until that evening.

We will need to cancel your treatment if you do not arrange this.

If you have children, you will need to arrange help with looking after them until the following day.

  • Do not bring any children or babies to hospital with you. We do not have a suitable space for them to wait.
  • If you have a cold or feel unwell before your treatment, or think you might be pregnant, please call us for advice.
  • Please arrive for your appointment on time, as we might not be able to see you if you arrive late.

Your medicines

Your medicines will be reviewed before your appointment. You will be told if you need to stop any of them for a short time before your treatment.

  • Unless you are told not to, please take your regular medicines as usual.
  • Let your dentist or nurse know if you have allergies to any medicines.

Eating and drinking 

The guidance you should follow on eating and drinking before your appointment depends on what treatment you are having.

If you are not sure which treatment you are having, please call your hospital team for advice.

If your treatment is in the day theatre:

  • do not eat or drink anything (except non-fizzy water) for 6 hours before your appointment
  • you cannot suck on sweets or chew gum for 6 hours before your appointment
  • you can drink water up to 2 hours before your appointment
  • take your regular medicines with a small sip of clear fluid

If your treatment is in the dental chair:

  • have a light meal before your appointment
  • you do not need to stop eating
  • take your regular medicines with a small sip of clear fluid

Having intravenous sedation

  1. Your dentist will explain the planned treatment, and check that you understand what will happen.
  2. The dental nurse will take your blood pressure.
  3. You will be asked to lie back in the dental chair.
  4. A small plastic tube (cannula) will be put in your arm or hand.
  5. The dentist will then give the sedation slowly through this tube, and will ask you to relax.
  6. The dental team will monitor your breathing during treatment.
  7. Your dentist might give you an injection of local anaesthetic to numb the area where you will be having treatment.

You might feel a slight stinging sensation when you have local anaesthetic, but then the area should feel numb. Please let your dental know if you feel any discomfort.

Risks of intravenous sedation

Intravenous sedation can slow down your breathing. You will be checked carefully during your treatment so that you can be given oxygen through a mask, if you need it.

You might have some bruising on your hand or arm after the injection. This should go after a few days.

Your medical team will speak to you about risks in more detail when you sign the consent form.

There are alternatives to intravenous sedation, such as sedation that you breathe in (inhalation sedation) or a general anaesthetic.

After intravenous sedation

At the end of treatment, you will be taken to the recovery area where the responsible adult you came with will be waiting.

You will still feel sleepy, and many people feel unsteady and forgetful.

For these reasons, you cannot leave hospital until you have been checked by the dentist or dental nurse.

Most people spend about 30 minutes in the recovery area. The plastic tube will stay in your hand or arm until you are ready to leave the hospital.

Follow-up appointment

If you need a follow-up appointment, your dentist or dental nurse will let you know. You will either be given an appointment by the reception team, or put on the waiting list and sent a letter when an appointment is available.

Recovering from sedation at home

For your safety, it is important that you follow the advice below when you are at home after having intravenous sedation.

Although you might feel fine, your reasoning, reflexes, judgement, coordination and skill can be affected by the sedation until the next day.

Please rest at home until the next day.


  • drive any vehicle, or ride a bicycle
  • operate any machinery, including domestic appliances
  • attempt to cook, use sharp utensils or pour hot or boiling liquids
  • drink alcohol or smoke
  • take sleeping tablets
  • make any important decisions or sign any contracts
  • use the internet
  • be responsible for children or other dependants

​​​​​​​Please follow this guidance for 48 hours after having sedation.

Resource number: 2201/VER4

Last reviewed: July 2019

Next review due: July 2022

Contact us

If you are having intravenous sedation and have any questions or concerns, please contact the dental day surgery unit.

Phone: 020 7188 1810 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

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Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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