Dental procedures are cause for concern for a number of patients who have a fear of dentists. Even the most basic procedures like cleanings and fillings will see individuals asking to be put under so they don’t have to deal with their phobia. However, there is a time to use the good stuff, and sorry folks, but it’s not for that.
Types of Anesthesia Used in Dentistry
There are two kinds of anesthesia used in dentistry: local and general. Almost all dental patients have had experience with local anesthesia as this type is the one used in tandem with fixing cavities. Anesthesia is administered to help dull the pain in this case. Local anesthesia dulls pain in the whole mouth or certain parts, depending on the dental work being completed. It doesn’t put you to sleep. Before local anesthesia is used, your dentist or hygienist will rub the numbing gel over the area. Once the feeling has been lost, the area is dried, and the needle is given.
General anesthesia is good stuff. This is the kind that will put you to sleep. General anesthesia is administered on a case-by-case basis. In certain situations, local anesthesia just won’t cut it. The good stuff is recommended for patients that exhibit extremely high anxiety or low pain tolerance, an allergy to local anesthesia, invasive dental work (extractions), an exaggerated gag reflex, or those who can’t remain still due to a disability.
How is Anesthesia Administered?
Certain dental procedures require dentists to use a form of anesthesia because they can cause a significant amount of pain. Extractions, oral surgery (i.e. wisdom tooth removal), implant placement, periodontal surgery, and root canal treatment all call for the use of anesthesia. The amount of anesthesia a patient receives is determined by the dental procedure.
Dentists can administer anesthesia in multiple ways. The four outlined below are the most common.
- Minimal Sedation- This form is inhaled by the patient. Nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, is inhaled along with oxygen to relax the patient. Your dentist will place a mask over your nose, you’ll breathe in the mixture, and then you’ll be ready to go. The benefit of this form is that the gas wears off quite quickly. In fact, this type of sedation is the only kind where the patient is permitted to drive themself home after the procedure.
- Oral Sedation- Oral sedation can be administered in both minimal and moderate doses. If only minimal sedation is needed, the patient will be given a pill to take one hour before the appointment. The pill will cause some drowsiness, but the patient will still be awake. A larger dose may be given to the patient if moderate sedation is required. Moderate sedation may result in the patient falling asleep, but they can be easily awakened with a gentle shake by the dentist.
- IV Moderate Sedation- For this form, the patient will receive the sedative through a vein, causing its effects to occur faster. Your dentist will be able to adjust the amount of sedative used.
- General Anesthesia- With general anesthesia, the patient will be given medication that will render them unconscious or close to. The patient will continue to be unconscious until the effects of the anesthesia wear off. The length of time the patient is asleep depends on the dose given.
Anesthesia is an effective and painless method of controlling pain during dental procedures. It helps patients relax or forget the appointment entirely, allowing the dentist to do the necessary work. Anesthesia can be administered in multiple ways depending on the dose needed to keep the patient comfortable during a procedure.