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  • Writer's pictureElias Azizi

Anesthesia and Sedation in Dental Surgery

By: Elias Azizi, Contributing Writer

Edited by: Fauzia Haque, Editor; Elias Azizi, Editor in Chief

Dental procedures and surgeries can be scary at times. The thought of having a sharp object cutting away at one’s gums or needles penetrating one’s mouth can be frightening. Based on Colgate, 50-80% of adults in the U.S. have mild to severe dental anxiety. Evidently, stress before dental surgeries is quite common. Luckily, sedation and anesthesia exist to help calm the nerves of anxious patients before dental procedures. Overall, the role of sedation and anesthesia is to make one’s experience during a surgical procedure less traumatic and much less painful. Without any anesthetic or sedation during a dental procedure, a patient would have to suffer through excruciating pain. To add, there are different types of sedation and anesthesia that are used during different dental procedures. Some anesthesias last longer and induce a relaxed state, whereas others just numb a small portion of the body. The three main types of anesthesia and sedation used in dental surgery are local anesthesia, nitrous oxide, and general anesthesia. Each of these types of anesthesia and sedation impact one’s body in a unique way and make one’s dental procedure experience less stressful.

Local Anesthesia in Dental Surgery

Local anesthesia is the most minor type of anesthetic (in terms of effect on the body) that is used in dentistry. It is typically administered during quick and less complex procedures like cavity fillings. During a dental procedure, local anesthesia is usually injected in the mouth. Once the local anesthetic is injected, the mouth will begin to feel quite numb. According to Healthline, the majority of local anesthetics take effect within 10 minutes and can last 30-60 minutes. This numbing effect will allow one to not feel any pain during their dental procedure. Unlike general anesthesia, the individual will be completely conscious during a dental procedure that requires local anesthetic. However, there should not be any pain at all. Based on Dental Research Journal, Lidocaine is the most commonly used local anesthetic in dentistry across the world. Other examples of local anesthetics used in dental surgery are articaine, mepivacaine, prilocaine, and bupivacaine.

Nitrous Oxide in Dental Surgery

Nitrous Oxide, also known as laughing gas, is a type of sedation that slows down the body’s reaction time. It is usually administered using a nasal mask: the patient must inhale the nitrous oxide in order for it to work. Before dental procedures, nitrous oxide may be used to make a patient feel more relaxed if they are anxious. This calming effect will make a patient’s dental procedure much less traumatic. Furthermore, it doesn’t take too long for the sedative effects of nitrous oxide to appear. According to DowntownDental, it only takes 2-3 minutes for nitrous oxide to work. Nitrous oxide is also quite safe when it is administered by a trained professional. Although nitrous oxide is considered to be a safe type of sedation, it still can cause some minor side effects after a procedure. The most common side effects of nitrous oxide are excessive sweating, shivering, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and dizziness. However, according to the California Dental Association, most people do not experience any negative side effects of nitrous oxide; only a very small number of people do.

General Anesthesia in Dental Surgery

General anesthesia is usually reserved for longer dental procedures like dental implant placements and impacted wisdom tooth removals. As well, it may also be administered if a patient is very anxious to the point where their stress may interfere with the procedure. A patient who is on a general anesthetic will be unconscious and will not feel any pain at all. In addition, patients who have received general anesthesia will have amnesia from the procedure and will likely not remember their surgery. The effects of general anesthetics are the strongest out of all the types of sedations and anesthesias. According to Bamonte Oral Surgery, those who have received general anesthesia for their dental surgery will not be able to drive themselves home. Thus, one who plans on receiving general anesthesia for their procedure must have an alternate form of transportation to get home. General anesthesia has been considered to be very safe in dental surgeries, but it can still cause some minor side effects. Typical side effects of general anesthesia are dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, and numbness. The most common types of general anesthetics are ketamine and propofol.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, all types of anesthesia help make dental experiences much less stressful. Local anesthesia, nitrous oxide sedation (laughing gas), and general anesthesia all impact the body in a different way. Local anesthesia in dental procedures numbs certain parts of the mouth in order to eliminate pain. Nitrous oxide sedation relaxes patients so that they feel less anxious during their surgery. General anesthesia causes patients to become unconscious during their procedures and completely relaxed. One thing that all of these types of anesthesias and sedations have in common is that they make dental procedures much less traumatic. If one were to have a dental surgery without any anesthesia or sedation, they could experience unbearable pain and have a traumatic experience. To add, local anesthesia and nitrous oxide are usually reserved for shorter procedures, whereas general anesthesia is normally used for longer procedures. Dental surgeries can be frightening at times and cause dental anxiety amongst adults; needles and scalpels aren’t necessarily the friendliest of objects. Luckily, various types of anesthesias and sedations exist to ensure that a patient’s dental procedure experience isn’t unpleasant at all.


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Artarmon Fine Dental
Artarmon Fine Dental
Jun 09, 2022

I loved reading your article on anesthesia and sedation in dental surgery. I was shocked to learn that dentists have to have anesthesia, which I completely did not know about. I was also fascinated by your article on vaccine database, which I found to be interesting, and the nutrition and fitness information you shared. I was surprised to learn that anesthesiologists work with dentists all the time to help them with the procedures they need to do. Overall, I appreciate the articles you've shared in your blog and the valuable information you provide.

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Feb 22, 2022

Three main types of anesthesia are commonly used in oral surgery: local anesthesia, IV sedation, and general anesthesia. Always be sure to follow the proper preparation and aftercare instructions from your Oral Surgeon to ensure that you have a safe and successful procedure. dmd vs dds

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