A visit to the dentist’s office is often associated with pain and discomfort, whether going in for a routine cleaning or getting a tooth pulled. Yet with modern advances in dental techniques and medications, you no longer have to be nervous to sit at the dentist’s chair. One of a dentist’s top priorities should be to make sure the patient is as relaxed and comfortable as possible, which can help ensure the most positive and effective results. For certain dental procedures, there are several types of anesthesia that can numb pain or, in some cases, make you temporarily unconscious.
Commonly administered at the dentist’s office, local anesthesia numbs just a small area of the body. In the case of a dental procedure, usually the gums or mouth. A topical anesthetic may be applied to the gums with a swab or spray, which helps to numb the sting caused by an injection. Injectable anesthetics are injected into the area of the mouth or gums being treated, blocking nerves and numbing mouth tissues to kill pain. They are often used during teeth restoration procedures, cavity fillings, root canals, tooth removal, or preparation for a crown placement.
During conscious sedation, you are awake and able to respond if someone touches you or speaks to you; however, you remain relaxed and drowsy during the dental procedure. Sedatives are often administered with local anesthetics or pain medications for root canals, crown placement or tooth removal. They can be inhaled, injected, or taken in pill or liquid form. Nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas,” is a type of sedation administered with a mixture of oxygen through a special mask. Intravenous (IV) sedation is usually administered through a vein in the arm and makes you extremely relaxed while less aware of the procedure taking place.
Some procedures, such as a complicated dental surgery, may require general anesthesia. General anesthesia causes a temporary loss of consciousness, during which you go under a deep sleep through the procedure and are unaware of what is going on. Dentists usually administer general anesthesia if you cannot control your anxiety, or for young children or people with disabilities.
Your doctor should discuss the dental anesthesia options with you and go over which will work best for your specific condition. Be sure to let your dentist know of any medications you may be on, and be honest when discussing your comfort levels with any procedure.