What are My Options for Anesthesia at a Dental Visit?

Do you have sensitive teeth or gums? You’ll be pleased to know there are a variety of anesthetic options available for making your next dental visit more comfortable.

Whether you’re having a routine cleaning or a root canal, your dentist will help you select the best type of anesthetic for your needs.

No Anesthesia: Numbing Gel or Rinse

If you’re slightly worried about sensitivity during a routine dental procedure (such as a cleaning, or before having an area numbed with local anesthetic) your dentist can use a topical anesthetic that’s rubbed onto your gums.

Since your gums are mucous membranes, topical anesthetic works very quickly and effectively, making it useful if you need a specific spot cleaned or are slightly sensitive in a particular area of your mouth. But because the effects wear off within a few minutes, topical products are not recommended for general routine procedures.

 Local Anesthetic

Most restorative dental procedures call for local anesthetic, to temporarily numb the area of the mouth being worked on. This medication is infiltrated into the soft tissues or nerves on one side of your mouth, numbing the affected area for up to a few hours.

There are numerous types of local anesthetic on the market, some with epinephrine and others without. The type that your dentists selects will depend on the area being treated, how long the anesthetic needs to last, and if you have any particular medical conditions that need to be considered. Since epinephrine is contraindicated for some people, it’s important to share your medical history so that your dentist can make the best decision for your heath.

What About Sedation and Analgesia?

Most types of sedation dentistry involve lighter forms of sedatives that make you feel sleepy or experience amnesia related to your appointment.

The lightest type of sedative is nitrous oxide (laughing gas) which is fast acting and quickly reversible. Deeper sedatives such as oral or IV sedation will last longer, but you will need someone to escort you to and from the appointment since you’ll be unable to drive.

General anesthesia is typically not used unless your treatment involves oral surgery or is being completed in a surgical center. During this type of anesthesia administration, a licensed medical anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will administer and supervise the sedative for the duration of the procedure. You may want to opt for this type of anesthesia if you’re having a wisdom tooth extraction, jaw surgery, or other complex procedure.

Discussing Options with Your Dentist

It’s completely normal to want to attempt certain dental procedures without anesthesia and then go back to it if you’re too sensitive. For example, if you need a deep cleaning (scaling and root planing) you may want to just have the hygienist apply topical anesthetic. But if it’s too tender, you can have local anesthesia administered at any time. Or maybe you’re getting a small filling and want to avoid sedation, but you ask your dentist to keep the laughing gas on standby “just in case.”

Talk to your Kois Center-affiliated dentist about which options are available to keep you comfortable.