A Brief Guide to Dental Anesthesia for Patients
Dental phobia is surprisingly common, leading some people to put off even much-needed dental care. Even those who are not especially afraid of the dentist may worry about pain during or after a procedure. Fortunately, modern dentistry is virtually pain-free thanks to a combination of new techniques and high quality dental anesthesia options. Here is a brief guide.
Local anesthesia is the cornerstone of today’s dentistry, as it is used for any procedure that could otherwise cause pain or discomfort. Although many people still refer to local anesthesia as Novocain, that specific drug is rarely used today. Lidocaine and other similar numbing medications work better, last longer, have fewer side effects, and are less likely to cause allergic reactions.
Regardless of which “caine” anesthetic is used, though, they all work in basically the same way. The numbing medication, along with some other chemicals to boost performance, is injected into your mouth. A “block” injection numbs a entire section of the mouth, such as the upper right quadrant, while an “infiltration” injection numbs a smaller area right around the injection site.
We will first use cotton or air to dry the area where we will give the injection. We will then swab the site with a numbing gel to avoid the sometimes-painful prick of the needle and sting of the anesthetic invading the mouth tissues.
Please note that local anesthesia takes some time to wear off. You may have trouble speaking, eating, or drinking from a straw for the next few hours. Be especially careful not to bite your lip, tongue, or cheek while numb, as you could cause an injury without feeling it.
Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is a mild dental sedative. This blend of nitrogen and oxygen, inhaled through a mask, is an excellent choice for those who need something to take the edge off but do not want to feel “out of control.” You will be awake and responsive, but relaxed and unafraid. The effects wear off rapidly, allowing you to safely drive home.
Not technically a type of anesthesia, but providing similar effects, are the oral sedation pills such as Valium or Halcion. Depending on the dose, you might feel moderately sedated, but you will not be knocked out. You will be able to follow instructions and talk to the dental staff, but you may feel a strong urge to nap during the procedure. You will be easy to rouse, but you may feel groggy for the rest of the day. Therefore, you must bring someone with you to drive you home.
IV sedation can be described as a lighter form of general anesthesia. Administered by a board-certified anesthesiologist, who will carefully monitor you throughout the procedure, IV sedation invokes a sort of “twilight sleep.” You will not be unconscious, but you will feel loopy and likely sleep through your procedure.
We will wake you up when you are finished, but you may be a bit out of it for the rest of the day. You must bring someone with you to drive you home. As you may be extremely tired and have difficulty caring for yourself, it is best if that person can stay with you for the next several hours. You should be back to normal by the next morning.
Unless there are unusual circumstances, dental procedures can generally be performed with nothing stronger than local anesthesia. Today’s numbing medications are very powerful, yet relatively short-lived, and have truly revolutionized dentistry. Still, many people prefer to add a bit of dental sedation to calm their nerves and help them relax throughout the procedure. We will review your options with you and help you decide what is best for you.
The Ricco Dental Group is dedicated to each patient’s individual dental needs, from restoring damaged or missing teeth to cosmetic smile enhancement. We serve the entire Long Island area, and we offer convenient evening and Saturday appointments as well as emergency care. Call us today at 516-931-3999 to schedule an appointment.