Many people experience anxiety about visiting the dentist and undergoing dental work. At times, this can keep them from seeking proper dental care. Patients are now offered relief from these fears through a variety of options for anesthesia and treatment of dental discomfort.
Benefits of Dental Anesthesia
Dental anesthesia allows people to gain a sense of comfort about complex or lengthy procedures, and may enable some patients to undergo elective procedures they have previously feared. Several methods help to control pain, lessen discomfort and assist in relaxation. Depending on the type of anesthesia used, discomfort during the dental procedure can be significantly reduced or completely eliminated.
Types of Dental Anesthesia
Dental anesthesia can be administered through several different methods.
Medication is injected into the mouth to numb the area to be treated and block the nerves that transmit pain. This type of anesthesia is commonly used during fillings, treating gum disease or preparing teeth for crowns.
This method is usually administered by inhaling nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas. It can also be administered orally in the form of a pill taken prior to the dental procedure. This form of anesthesia is commonly combined with a local anesthetic to help relieve anxieties and reduce pain.
This is the strongest form of anesthesia available for dental procedures and involves intravenous medications that produce a temporary loss of consciousness. General anesthesia is usually only used during oral surgery procedures.
Complications from Dental Anesthesia
Dental anesthesia is a common and safe procedure, but before its administration, the dentist should know a patient's complete medical history to avoid any possible complications. Side effects are rare and vary depending on the type of anesthesia that is administered. These possible complications may include:
Swelling at the injection site
Swelling or numbness in the mouth
More serious risks of general anesthesia are extremely rare and are more likely to occur in patients with serious medical conditions, those who are highly allergic or those with a history of alcohol abuse.
It is important for all patients to wait for the effects anesthesia to wear off before leaving a dental appointment. Especially in cases where general anesthesia is administered, patients are advised not to drive themselves home.
The dentist will determine which type of anesthesia is best for each patient based on the type and seriousness of the procedure being performed and on the medical condition and personal preferences of the individual patient.
National Institutes of Health
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
U.S. National Library of Medicine