Dental Anesthesia: Which Medication Works for Which Procedure?

Trips to the dentist are different for everyone. You might have gone in the past to have your teeth taken out. And you might recall your dentist giving you a dose of anesthesia before the surgery to dull the pain. The anesthesia he gave you is one of many anesthetic medications for oral surgeries.

You might remember feeling dizzy and getting a terrible headache after the operation. This is because dizziness and headaches are some of the side effects of taking anesthetics. If you knew what kind of anesthetic you ingested, you would have known how to handle the side effects better.

Different Types of Dental Anesthesia

Medical advancements now let the surgeons and medical professionals administer operations and surgeries relatively pain-free. Dentists have different kinds of anesthetics at their disposal for simple and complex operations.

Your dentist determines which anesthetic is best suited for you and your condition through the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) physical status classification system. Before giving you anesthesia, your dentist reviews your physical fitness, other existing medical conditions, and your response to medication.

The most commonly administered anesthetic for simple dental operations is local anesthesia.

Local anesthesia – this anesthesia works by numbing a specific area in the mouth where it’s applied. It temporarily prevents the nerve fibers in the teeth from transmitting impulses, numbing it. It has two types:

  • Topical – Topical anesthesia desensitizes the gums and significantly lessens the stinging sensation from the injection. The dentist applies a swab of anesthetic on the area, followed by the injection.
  • Injectable – Injectable anesthesia numbs the injected area directly. It uses injection alone, unlike the topical anesthetic.

Dentists use local anesthesia for filling cavities, preparing teeth for dental implant treatment, and treating gum disease, among others. Temporary side effects include dizziness, headaches, weakness and tingling in the affected area, and in some cases, vomiting.

General anesthesia – For longer, more complicated procedures and operations, your dentist may give you a dose of general anesthesia. The anesthetic passes through the veins via an intravenous drip. This type of anesthetic induces a deep kind of sleep in the patient, thus making you completely unaware of the operation as it progresses. Unlike local anesthesia, you’re unconscious. Dentists may recommend this anesthesia for extremely anxious patients who have an intense fear of surgery or any procedure.

dental check up

Oral premedication – For this anesthetic to work, the patient has to take it an hour and a half before the appointment. The most common pills are Valium, Halcion, and Ativan. This medication works by invoking a sense of sedation in the patient, though he remains conscious throughout the operation.

Laughing gas – Also known as nitrous oxide, this medication remains the lightest form of oral sedation. It is an odorless substance that slows down the body’s reaction time. Using it envelopes the patient with a calm, euphoric feeling. It works by taking the edge off the dental operation. As the operation progresses, you remain conscious and may still feel the effects of the surgery. You may feel light headed and prickles of sensation on your arms and legs.

Dental anesthetics lessen the pain of any operation you’ll be undergoing. By knowing which anesthetic you’re getting, you can better prepare yourself for the side effects.