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Getting Anesthesia? Top 5 Things to Know Before Your Procedure

There are many anesthetic options for patients undergoing dental procedures depending on their medical history and specific needs—it can dull pain either locally or over a large portion of the body, it can sedate a nervous patient, and it can make for an overall more comfortable experience. However, we find that many patients are nervous about anesthesia before having it administered. That’s why we’ve provided some answers to some of your most burning questions below.

What are the different types of anesthesia and sedation?

We will discuss four different types of anesthesia here for our purposes—local, nitrous oxide, IV sedation, and general anesthesia. The type of anesthesia is determined by the complexity of procedure.

  • Local Anesthesia (also known as Novocain): This is the most common anesthetic. It is applied to the procedure site for temporary numbness, and blocks nerve fibers from transmitting impulses from the area. You can expect this might be used for fillings, root canals, and simple tooth extractions.
  • Nitrous Oxide (also known as Laughing Gas): Using a mixture of oxygen and nitrous oxide, this anesthetic is administered through a mask. It is not intended to put you to sleep, but instead makes you feel a bit lightheaded and more comfortable. It is often used for pediatric or anxiety-prone patients.
  • IV moderate sedation: Inserted through the vein, this moderate sedation alters the patient’s state of consciousness, making them relaxed and comfortable. While you are not completely knocked out under this anesthesia, most patients don’t remember anything from during their time under this anesthetic.
  • General Anesthesia: This is the strongest form of anesthesia and is typically only used for major surgical procedures, such as removing impacted wisdom teeth. This will put patients under a deep sleep, and the effects of the anesthetic take longer to wear off.

What procedures require anesthesia?

Unfortunately, certain procedures are a bit more intensive and therefore require anesthesia — the most common of which would be tooth extraction. Removing impacted wisdom teeth in particular can require anesthesia because of their placement within the gums. You can also expect that you may need local anesthesia for fillings and root canals, as both require drilling in the areas of tooth decay.

How do you administer anesthesia?

The process for administering local anesthesia is fairly quick and not as scary as you might think. Your dentist will simply dry the location that needs treatment with a cotton ball or air. Then, they will swab a gel that numbs your skin, and use a needle to inject the local anesthetic into the tissue. Don’t worry – most people don’t even feel the needle (though they may feel the anesthetic moving through the gum tissue a bit). For “laughing gas,” the dentist will simply place a mask over the nose that is a mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen. As the patient breathes through their nose, they soon feel less agitated. General anesthesia, on the other hand, is used in major surgical procedures such as for impacted wisdom teeth, and is injected into the system intravenously, putting you into a sleep-like state for the duration of the procedure.

How long does it take to recover after a surgery that requires anesthesia?

The recovery period after anesthesia definitely depends on the type of anesthesia used (local, general, etc.) as well as the procedure. Local anesthetics typically last for several hours, and this can impact any drinking, eating, or speaking during that time. It is recommended that you’re careful not to bite down on the numbed area during this recovery as you might cause accidental damage. As for general anesthesia, on the other hand, can require recovery in a recovery room for a few hours and the effects can impact patients for up to 24 hours so it is recommended that patients have an adult to drive them home after the procedure.

Is anesthesia safe?

The risks of anesthesia are now very low due to technological advancements. It must always be administered by a licensed anesthesiologist with formal training in an anesthesia residency program. Patients will also be closely monitored and their vitals checked regularly to ensure they are safe throughout the procedure. That said, be certain to let your dentist know any medications you may be taking, or this could put you at risk. 
Caputo Dental is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and board certified anesthesiologists to facilitate these more complex procedures. To learn more about our dental anesthesia program, call our Naperville office today to set up a consultation.

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