Are you nervous about going to the dentist? You’re not alone. If you’re like most people, an unpleasant experience in the dentist’s chair in the past might have made you nervous about returning for future treatments. Or, you might have been told that you need to have a major procedure performed, such as the removal of your wisdom teeth, and you’re concerned that it will hurt.
Dental anesthesia is meant to help make your time at the dentist’s office less stressful and less painful. The anesthesia option that’s right for you depends on the type of procedure you’re having and how you feel about the idea of dental work. Here are a few of your options.
Local anesthetic numbs a specific area of your mouth while the dentist is performing a treatment. The anesthesia works by blocking the nerves in that area so that you don’t feel pain or any other sensations during the procedure. This type of anesthesia is common during routine procedures like cavity fillings.
Local anesthetic techniques have come a long way in recent years. Today, a dentist might use computer-generated anesthesia to more precisely administer an anesthetic. The use of a computer allows dentists to not only get the exaction location right but also aids them in determining the appropriate amount of anesthetic to give to a patient.
Although local anesthesia numbs the area where the dentist is working, it doesn’t put the patient to sleep or sedate them. If you’re receiving treatment with just local anesthesia, you will be awake and alert during the procedure.
IV Conscious Sedation
If going to the dentist makes you nervous or if you’d rather not be fully awake and alert during a cavity filling, wisdom tooth extraction or gum disease treatment, you might ask your dentist to give you a sedative during your procedure.
Several options are available for sedation during dental work. One option is for your dentist to administer the sedative intravenously. Also called IV conscious sedation, this option delivers the sedative directly into your bloodstream.
Not all dentists offer IV sedation. Only providers with the proper certifications and experience are permitted to offer this option. Dentists must first complete specific training programs. Once they are trained, they are overseen by the board of dentistry in their state. Not every dental practice that offers sedation dentistry also offers IV sedation.
Compared to other forms of dental sedation, there are a few benefits to IV sedation. It’s easier for the dentist to monitor the patient and to adjust the amount of sedative. IV sedation also tends to be more effective than other options.
Pill sedation is also called orally-administered sedation. It doesn’t require the same levels of training as IV sedation, so more dentists can offer the option.
While taking a sedative in pill form will help you feel more relaxed in the dental chair, the technique isn’t as effective as IV sedation when it comes to conscious sedation. Patients who take a pill sedative do tend to remember much of what happens during their procedure.
Nitrous oxide is more often known as “laughing gas.” Like pill sedation, it’s one of the more popular options for sedation in dental practices.
If a dentist gives you nitrous oxide, they will place a mask over your nose, so that you breathe in the gas. When the mask is removed, the effects of the sedative wear off quickly.
Laughing gas can help you relax in the dentist’s chair. However, it won’t produce amnesia, so you will be able to remember what went on during your treatment. It’s a good option if you feel somewhat nervous about treatment, but don’t have very high levels of anxiety.
One thing that all three sedation options have in common is that they don’t put you fully under. You’re still able to breathe on your own when you receive conscious sedation.
More extensive dental procedures, such as jaw surgery and other forms of oral surgery, might require the use of general anesthesia. General anesthesia is the most complicated type of anesthetic, as patients are fully asleep during the procedure. Patients who receive general anesthesia need to be constantly monitored and need assistance breathing. You won’t feel anything during the treatment, nor will you remember what went on once you wake up.
If general anesthesia is used during a procedure, there will usually be a full team of dentists and anesthesiologists present in the room to ensure the patient’s safety.
Compared to local anesthesia and sedatives, general anesthesia takes the longest time to wear off. It might not be until a few hours after treatment that a patient “wakes up” from the anesthetic.
Preparing for Anesthesia
Depending on the type of anesthetic your dentist plans to give you during a dental procedure, you will need to make certain plans and preparations. With some sedatives and general anesthesia, you’ll need to have a friend or family member drive you home from the dentist’s office.
You might not be able to eat or drink anything for several hours before the treatment. For the best possible results, make sure you’re clear on what you can, can’t, and should do before getting any type of dental anesthesia.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area offering patients custom treatment plans with sedation dentistry. He can recommend options that work for you and your needs. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.