A Brief Overview: Anesthesia for Your Dental Procedure

About 10 – 30% of people have anxiety and concerns about pain with dental procedures.  Delay of treatment as a result of that anxiety can make matters even worse.  There are anesthetics available for dental procedures.

The different types of dental anesthesia include the following:

  • Local anesthesia – an anesthetic agent given to temporarily stop the sense of pain in a particular area of the body
  • Sedation – has several levels and is used to relax a person who may have anxiety, help with pain or keep them still for the procedure.  It can also cause procedure amnesia.  You might be fully conscious and able to respond to commands, semiconscious, or barely conscious.  Sedation is categorized as mild, moderate, or deep.
  • General Anesthesia – is an anesthetic used to induce unconsciousness during surgery

Anesthesia means a lack or loss of sensation and can be with or without consciousness.  There are many options today for dental anesthetics.  Medications can be used alone or combined for better effect.  It’s individualized for a safe and successful procedure.

The type of anesthetic depends on the age of the person, health condition, length of procedure, and any negative reactions to anesthetics in the past.

Anesthetics can be short-acting when applied directly to an area or work for longer times when more involved surgery is required.

The success of dental anesthesia depends on:

  • The drug
  • The area being anesthetized
  • The procedure
  • Individual factors

Other things that may affect the dental anesthesia include the timing of the procedure.  Inflammation can have a negative impact on the success of anesthetics.

For local anesthesia, teeth in the lower jaw (mandibular) section of the mouth are harder to anesthetize than the upper jaw (maxillary) teeth.

Local dental anesthesia is used for simpler procedures like cavity filling, which requires a shorter time to complete and is generally less complicated.  You’ll be conscious and able to communicate when you receive a local.  The area will be numb, so you won’t feel pain.

Most local anesthetics take effect quickly (within 10 minutes) and last 30 to 60 minutes.  A vasopressor, such as epinephrine, is sometimes added to the anesthetic to increase its effect and simultaneously limit its spread to other parts of the body.

Local anesthetics are available over the counter and as a prescription in gel, ointment, cream, spray, patch, liquid, and injectable forms.  They can be applied topically (applied directly to the affected area to numb) or injected into the area to be treated.  Sometimes light sedation is added to local anesthetics to help relax a person.

Local anesthesia is the most common and often used method to numb an area to diminish the pain.  Sedation is the next method (such as nitrous oxide) used to calm and diminish the pain.  Sedation has several levels and is issued to relax a person who may have anxiety, help with pain, or keep the individual still for the procedure.  It can also produce amnesia.

You may be fully conscious and able to respond to commands, semiconscious, or barely conscious.  Sedation is categorized as mild, moderate, or deep.

Deep sedation can also be called monitored anesthesia care or MAC.  In deep sedation, you are generally not aware of your surroundings and can only respond to repeated or painful stimulation.

There are more risks with IV sedation. Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing must be carefully monitored in moderate or deep sedation.

General anesthesia is used for longer procedures, or if you have a lot of anxiety that might interfere with your treatment.  There are different risks with general anesthesia.

How We Handle Anesthesia at Columbia Dental

At Columbia Dental we offer local anesthesia and mild, moderate and deep sedation for your benefit.  Our objective, in its use, is to keep you comfortable, reduce your anxiety and get you, and keep you, out of pain.

Anxiety related to dental procedures is common but can complicate treatment. It’s important to discuss all your concerns about the procedure and your expectations with your dental care team before.

Ask questions about the medications that will be used and what you can expect during and after your treatment.

Share your medical history, including any allergies and other medications you’re taking. Be sure this includes over-the-counter drugs, prescriptions, and supplements.

Ask about any special instructions you need to follow before and after the procedure. This includes food and drink before and after treatment.

Ask if you need to arrange for transportation after the procedure and any other information you need to know.

Your Columbia Dental provider will give you instructions to follow before and after the procedure. We will also provide a way for you to contact your provider in case you have any complications or questions.

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