Are you worried about pain in your major dental procedure? You do not need to because your dentist may use dental anesthesia to numb the sensation.

This helps people with anxiety to not hesitate before getting their dental treatments.

And let’s be honest, we all fear the pain any extensive dental procedure may cause.

In that case, getting anesthesia is a blessing.

You may be fully conscious or unconscious during the procedure depending on the type of anesthesia you got.

This article discusses the types of anesthesia and their uses so that you are not as anxious before your procedure.

So, let’s dive in!

what is dental anesthesia

What is Dental Anesthesia?

Anesthesia inhibits any pain or results in a lack or loss of sensation during medical procedures.

You can get it while in a conscious or unconscious state.

Now you may wonder why would you specifically need anesthesia while going to the dentist?

Yes, a trip to the dentist is usually rather simple.

All you do is sit on a dental chair, get teeth cleaning or scaling and all other things in a routine checkup.

Though, sometimes you may encounter a need for wisdom tooth removal, root canal or fillings.

Hence, dental anesthesia for tooth extraction and the rest of these procedures is required.

It helps to ease out your anxiety that may build up thinking about the pain.

Now anesthesia does not necessarily mean total unconsciousness.

Currently, there are many options available including medications that can be used as-is or for a combined effect on numbing pain.

The type of anesthesia you will get depends on:

  • patients’ age
  • length of the procedure
  • any previous reactions to the anesthesia
  • the patients’ health condition

If an involved surgery is needed then anesthetics can work for a longer time.

On the other hand, they can be short-acting as well if you only need the application directly in that area.

Whether the anesthesia will be successful or not depends on several factors such as:

  • the treatment procedure
  • the drug used
  • the area of anesthesia
  • timing and length of the procedure
  • for dental anesthesia, it is harder to anesthetize teeth in the lower jaw than in the upper jaw
  • inflammation negatively affecting the successful outcome of anesthesia

The three main types of anesthesia are general, local and sedation.

What the doctor uses on you depends on the procedure, its length and your physical health and well-being.

Let’s find out more below!

dental anesthesia types



General Anesthesia

In this type of anesthesia, you will be entirely unconscious.

There will be no pain, your muscles will be relaxed.

GA is usually given in procedures that are longer and can give you anxiety while after getting anesthesia you get amnesia from the procedure and do not remember anything that happened during it.

Therefore, the intention is that the patient does not feel anything or wake up during the procedure due to it.

It is given through a face mask or IV.

While the level depends on the patient and the duration of the procedure.

The medications used are propofol, midazolam, desflurane and etomidate among others.

GA is mostly given for extensive dental procedures such as oral surgical procedures.

However, you may also require it for wisdom tooth removal and dental implant placement.

Local Anesthesia 

On the other hand, local anesthesia is usually for smaller problems and simpler procedures.

You will still be conscious, it is just the treatment area that will be numb.

It numbs the mouth tissue by blocking the nerves that transmit pain and sense it.

This type is usually for procedures that are shorter and do not require an extensive procedure.

The anesthesia will take effect within 10 minutes and last for a shorter time i.e. 30 to 60 minutes.

Additionally, the anesthesiologists may add a vasopressor like epinephrine into the anesthetic to retain its effect.

It also helps to prevent the spread of the anesthesia to other parts of the body.

These are also present in the form of a topical anesthetic.

A topical anesthetic like an ointment or gel will first numb the area or soothe mouth sores.

Then a dental anesthesia injection will be used for the procedures such as cavity filling, treating gum disease, and preparing your teeth for crowns.

sedation dentistry


Sedation Dentistry

Sedation dentistry has levels and it helps to relax the person going through anxiety and also assist with their pain.

You will be conscious during the procedure, and will also be able to respond to commands depending on the type of sedation you got.

It can be mild, moderate or deep and so you can be subconscious or barely conscious.

Your doctor can use it with types of dental local anesthesia to increase patient comfort.

It is a good option for lengthier procedures that need deep sedation.

In deep sedation or monitored anesthesia care, you are unaware of your surroundings but can respond to painful stimulation.

There are different ways to give sedation medicine, either through inhalation, IV, orally or intramuscularly.

The different types include:

Inhaling Nitrous Oxide 

Nitrous Oxide is a laughing gas however, combining it with a local anesthetic can give certain amounts of sedation.

The laughing gas has calming effects which you breathe through a mask.

You remain conscious while the procedure occurs, though sedated.

IV Sedation

The dentist delivers the sedation intravenously.

Hence, as they can deliver it through the vein, they can also adjust the level of sedation throughout the procedure.

You will be in a semi-conscious state having little or no memory of the entire procedure.

However, there are also risks such as increased heartbeat. More on that later.

Oral Sedation

Oral medication such as Halcion is given to the patient.

The dosage differs according to the level of sedation, minimal, moderate or deep.

Minimal sedation is usually to relieve anxiety for smaller procedures and it will keep you in a dreamlike state.

It will come in use in wisdom teeth or implant placement.

For the treatment of impacted wisdom teeth, you’ll need moderate or deeper sedation.

You’ll fall asleep but wake up easily.

side effects

Dental Anesthesia Side Effects and Risks

The side effects depend on the type of anesthesia.

For instance, there are more risks with general anesthesia than both sedation and local.

However, each type has its own set of side effects.

  • For General Anesthesia

Your doctor will monitor the side effects occurring during the treatment and after it.

It will cause a sore throat and muscle aches.

You will also have itches, and feel confused when you are regaining consciousness and hypothermia that causes chills and shivering.

Plus, you may also feel nauseous and vomit.

Your doctor will prevent you from eating or drinking anything for a while which may result in vomiting.

Serious consequences such as postoperative delirium or cognitive dysfunction that cause long-term memory loss are rare.

Plus, you should let your doctor know if any of your family members had malignant hyperthermia or heat stroke in surgery before as that could rarely happen due to GA as well.

local or general

  • For Local Anesthesia

Side effects with local anesthesia are rather rare.

The numbness can possibly spread beyond the mouth.

That can further droop the eyelids and cheek muscles.

Moreover, you can have a fast heartbeat, blood outside of a blood vessel, being unable to blink temporarily and rarely if ever nerve damage.

  • For Sedation

After sedation, you may feel drowsy and nauseous.

Plus, you may also have a headache which can occur a few days after the procedure, feel difficulty while urinating, hematoma, pain at the needle site and rarely nerve damage.

IV sedation can increase blood pressure and heartbeat.

Hence, breathing needs constant monitoring in moderate and deep sedation.

Other side effects include:

  • tiredness
  • lockjaw
  • dry mouth
  • slurred speech
  • sweating
  • hallucinations
  • dizziness

Risks of the procedure can include:

  • allergic reaction
  • seizures
  • coma
  • heart failure
  • stroke
  • nerve damage
  • low blood pressure
  • stopped breathing
  • malignant hyperthermia
  • heart attack


Considerations While Getting Dental Anesthesia

Now you know the different types of anesthesia but are you aware of whether you should get it or not?

There are certain considerations for pregnant women, older adults, children with special needs and those suffering from an existing condition.

For a pregnant woman, your dentist will thoroughly discuss the risks of anesthetics for you and your baby before the procedure.

Older adults need dose adjustments.

Moreover, they require careful monitoring during and after the procedure.

For instance, some adults may feel confused or get memory loss after the procedure.

Children with special needs first require evaluation of the level and type of anesthetics.

Next, they may need dose adjustments to prevent overdose.

People with a history of neurological conditions may face a risk with general anesthesia.

These include thyroid disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and more.

People suffering from heart, liver and kidney problems will need dose adjustments as the drug takes longer to leave the body later.

Plus, also let them know if you suffer from acid reflux, mouth sores, hiatal hernia, allergies or nausea with anesthetics.

Inform them if you are taking any medication that makes you drowsy.

Also, tell them of any other condition you suffer from as there can be a risk with those.

Once you are clear of any concerning risk, you can get your treatment without worry.

Last Thoughts,

With the invention of dental anesthesia, procedures have become easier for patients.

The doctor will carry out the procedure while you will be subconscious or unconscious and won’t feel pain.

This has been able to expand the area of treatments and procedures available to patients.