Different Types of Anesthesia Used in Dentistry

Over the past several hundred years, the dental and medical field has made significant advances in the world of pain management. You won’t hear dentists tell patients to “take another shot of whisky,” which was a common practice just a hundred years ago. Or to “take this laudanum, heroin, or cocaine,” popular anesthetics during the early 1900s. Today’s medical doctors and oral surgeons have a variety of safe and effective types of anesthesia at their disposal, so take a look at these common options below to help you feel as comfortable as possible before and during your surgery.

Anesthetics - Local, Regional, and General

Depending on the type of surgery you’re scheduled for, you may need a local, regional, or general anesthetic - or possibly a combination or two or more. A local refers to an anesthetic that is delivered to a specific area of the body - most often the gums during an oral surgery, and it effectively dulls or completely eliminates pain in a localized area. You’ll be 100% awake still, so if you’re a nervous patient you may want to talk to your dentist about other sedation options.

Regional anesthetics eliminate pain in a larger portion of the body, but they do not put you to sleep. Think of an epidural given to a woman in childbirth - she is completely awake and aware of what is happening, but is dulled to the pain of childbirth from the waist or chest down. A nerve block is one type of regional anesthetic commonly used by dentists as it numbs the extremities, including the face.

General anesthetics are often used when patients are either having a serious surgery or the individual is far too nervous to allow the dentist to perform the needed work under local or regional anesthesia. General anesthesia is administered via either an IV or intravenously, or it can be delivered via an inhalation mask. General anesthesia, when delivered appropriately, should render you completely asleep and unconscious to the surgery being performed.

How is Anesthesia Delivered?

Locals are generally administered via a very small injection. The needle is quite tiny, and the pain from this isn’t as bad as most dental patients anticipate - plus, the local agent will get to work quickly and prevent most if not all subsequent pain in the area. Halcion pills are another option for those who desire to be sedated, but do not want to be put completely under. About an hour before the surgery, the patient will take the Halcion pill and they’ll soon find themselves fully relaxed and ready for the procedure.

An IV is a popular method of delivering anesthesia, because the oral surgeon can continually adjust the amount of sedative flowing into the patient’s body. If it is evident that the patient is in pain, the surgeon can simply boost the amount of medication to an elevated but safe level. An IV or a mask is typically used for administering general anesthesia, and it works almost immediately to put the patient into a deep sleep. It does take some time to recover from the effects of this type of sedation, so partner with someone else to drive you home and monitor you for the rest of the day.

The medical community sure has come a long way since the days of using whisky as the primary sedative in dental procedures. Talk with your Stockton dentist for kids, Sajjad Rizvi, DDS at Happy Kids Dental today and find out which options are best for you!

[1] What is Sedation Dentistry
[2] Sedation Dentistry Explained

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