February 3, 2010

Dental Anesthesia

The Reason for Dental Anesthesia

Dental anxiety––fear of visits to the dentist––is common in the US. Up to 75% of us say we feel some level of dental fear. And 50% actually avoid regular dental check-ups because of the fear of pain. But fear should not stop you from enjoying good oral health. In fact, dentists can use anesthesia to stop pain and help you get past the fear.

The Types of Dental Anesthesia

Local dental anesthesia is used to numb the gums and teeth. This helps to block any pain you might feel in the course of dental work. How does it work? In its topical form, dentists apply the anesthetic with a swab, spray, or patch. They may also give you a local anesthetic as a shot. This is often done if you need to have a tooth restored or removed. It is also done if you need a root canal or to treat gum disease.

Along with local dental anesthesia, dentists may also use sedatives as a pill, liquid, or shot. This can help you to relax prior to dental work. Sedatives may produce a state of conscious sedation. With this type, you would feel relaxed but also awake and responsive. Agents used for this include nitrous oxide, which a dentist combines with oxygen and gives you through a small mask.

When a dentist needs to do work that is more intrusive, she may opt to use a general dental anesthetic. This type puts you to sleep. A dentist may use this type if you have extreme dental anxiety. They also use this type for patients who have less control of their body movements due to age or a disability. Note that only dentists with special qualifications and advanced training are permitted to use general dental anesthesia.

Dental Anesthesia: A Matter for Patients and Their Dentists to Decide

The level of dental anesthesia and sedation you may need is a matter to discuss with your dentist. If you think it could help you, talk to your dentist and tell them about any existing medical conditions or allergies. Also, tell your dentist about all the meds you are taking, both prescription and over the counter ones. Just don’t let fear keep you from good oral health.