Fear of pain and dental anxiety are two of the most common reasons people put off essential dental work. At Gateway Oral Surgeons, our doctors want you to be comfortable during your procedures. Modern anesthesia gives us safe and effective ways to help manage pain and anxiety during surgery. Our guide will familiarize you with how each one works and what options you have available.
At the start of your procedure, we’ll use local anesthesia to numb the area. Local anesthetics work only around the area where they’re applied, but they can be powerful. Local anesthetics administered in your gum line, for instance, can end up numbing your lips and cheek for several hours.
Local anesthetics are divided into two categories:
- Topical: These are used to numb the surface of tissues. We typically use them to numb areas before we inject a stronger anesthetic to make the injection more comfortable.
- Injected: These numb a broader but still controlled area. When we need to numb deep structures, we may use a few progressive injections to minimize your discomfort. That way, the needle rarely touches an area that hasn’t already been numbed.
Local anesthetics offer the lowest risk, but you’ll want to be careful while it wears off. You can easily bite your lip, tongue or cheek. It might not hurt now, but it will later. Stick with soft foods until you regain sensation.
Nitrous oxide, also known as “laughing gas,” is a form of inhaled, light sedation. While you remain conscious, it helps you feel more relaxed, content and even happy.
One of the biggest benefits of nitrous oxide is that you can control how much of its effects you feel. If you want to feel more of an effect, you can simply breathe slowly and deeply. It’s also eliminated from the body quickly.
Nitrous oxide is cost-effective and offers minimal risk. For minor procedures and patients that experience mild to moderate anxiety, it’s an invaluable tool.
Oral sedation is a moderate form of conscious sedation administered as pills. You’ll likely retain memories of your procedure, but it’s strong enough that you’ll need a ride to and from your appointment.
Your surgeon can prescribe a medication for you to take approximately an hour before your appointment time. This way, you’ll arrive at your appointment relaxed and comfortable. Oral sedation is often the most affordable option and can be an economical choice for patients without dental insurance.
One drawback to oral sedation is that its effects and duration can vary. If you’ve taken an oral sedative in the past that worked well for you, mention it to your oral surgeon to see if it’s an option. Oral sedation is safe for most patients, but it’s important you give your doctor a full, honest and accurate list of all medications you take to prevent possible interactions.
Intravenous Sedation or General Anesthesia
Intravenous sedation, also called IV sedation or “twilight sleep,” is the deepest form of conscious sedation. It puts you in a state of profound relaxation and security. IV sedation often uses the same medications as oral sedation, but they’re significantly faster and predictable when administered intravenously. IV sedation is our most effective tool for patients with anxiety.
Complications from IV sedation are extremely rare. The medication is administered gradually and monitored at all times. The most pressing concern for most patients needing a ride home. IV sedation can leave you disoriented and sleepy for several hours. Children under the age of 18 will need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian that stays in the office until the procedure is complete. All patients undergoing IV sedation/general anesthesia must have a responsible adult bring them to the office, say in the office during the procedure and take them home.
As with oral sedation, it’s important you give your surgeon a complete list of all medications you take prior to your appointment date. On the day of your appointment, remember not to eat or drink anything after midnight. This is a very important and can be life-threatening if this is not followed.
Our Oral Surgeons
Always seek sedation from dentists and surgeons with the proper training and certification. At Gateway, both Dr. Scott Nolen and Dr. Hiran Fernando have advanced training in anesthesia.
From pain relief to stress relief, anesthesia makes dental procedures easier and more comfortable. If you’re ready to schedule your appointment, call Gateway Oral Surgeons of St. Louis.