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Putting Pain and Anxiety to Rest: Your Anesthetic and Sedative Options

Putting Pain and Anxiety to Rest: Your Anesthetic and Sedative Options

Putting Pain and Anxiety to Rest: Your Anesthetic and Sedative Options

Panicking at the mere thought of visiting the dentist? From mild anxiety to a full-blown phobia, fear of dental work is an all-too-common problem that stands between many individuals and the oral health care they need. However, you need not choose between suffering in the chair or staying away until it is an emergency. Between various types of anesthesia and several kinds of sedatives, there are more options than you might think to avoid pain or discomfort.

Anesthetic Options

If pain is your primary fear, local anesthesia can numb you against feeling any discomfort while essential dental work is under way. Depending on the type of treatment required (and your threshold for pain), options include:

Topical Anesthesia

Typically applied with a cotton swab, topical anesthesia numbs the surface of your gums to take the sting off an upcoming injection, dulls the gingiva against certain procedures such as tooth cleanings, or eases painful conditions like mouth sores. While topical applications are normally a light and temporary numbing measure, oral "patches" containing anesthesia have been developed to provide longer, more targeted relief for cases where larger needles are necessary.

Injectable Anesthesia

For dental work near or involving sensitive nerves or tissue, anesthesia is injected into that particular area of the mouth beforehand in order to block out any pain. Often resulting in a "fat lip" or a puffy-cheeked feeling, injectable anesthesia is mostly used for treating cavities, gum disease or in preparation for crown placement.

Non-Injectable Anesthesia

Those who are afraid of needles, yet still need to eliminate pain caused by procedures such as root planning or scaling, may benefit from non-injectable anesthesia. Using this method, anesthesia is delivered directly into the periodontal pocket via a single-use cartridge and an applicator. It lasts for up to 20 minutes, and can be re-applied numerous times throughout your appointment.

For your safety, dentists follow detailed dosage guidelines based on your weight and medical history, and must be licensed in order to administer anesthesia.

Sedative Options

When local anesthesia is not enough to soothe a patient's fears, sedatives to calm your nerves – or in certain cases, put you in a "deep sleep" of unconsciousness – may be necessary. Depending on your level of fear and the procedure itself, the dentist may call for different levels of sedation, such as:

Minimal Sedation

"Laughing Gas", or nitrous oxide, is inhaled through a gas mask in order to help you relax. The patient remains completely conscious, and, in many cases, due to the quick-wearing nature of the gas, may even be able to drive home after the appointment.

Moderate Sedation

Often given in pill form, drugs such as Halcion (a close relative of the drug Valium), is taken an hour before the start of any dental work. For faster results, it may also be given via an IV, but either option results in a level of grogginess. Though many remain conscious throughout the appointment, it is not uncommon to fall asleep and be woken after the procedure is complete. If given moderate sedation, you should have someone drive you have from your appointment.

Deep Sedation

Also known as "general anesthesia", this is the strongest form of sedative an individual can receive, and results in a partial or complete state of unconsciousness. Nothing is felt throughout the procedure and it very difficult to wake up the patient until the medication has worn off. Similar to moderate sedation, you should not drive or operate a motor vehicle following your procedure.

If sedation seems like a good option for you, speak to your dentist about the types of sedatives he or she is able to administer. While many dentists are accredited to administer both minimal and moderate sedation, deep sedation often requires the expertise of a dental anesthesiologist or oral surgeon.

Minimizing Your Risk

Dentists keep your safety top of mind when administering anesthesia or a sedative, but there are always risks involved. To protect your health, consult with your dentist at length about which option might be best for you, and come prepared with a detailed history of current and past illnesses, medications and health conditions.

Patient Reviews

  • Dr. Rehder and the entire staff are friendly and compassionate. They accommodate my needs as a patient and treat me as a personal friend. Professionally, they provide the utmost care and advice, the patient always comes first. I can’t say enough positive comments about this practice.

    ~Review by Eileen S.

  • Dr. Rehder is very professional, yet not too serious as he is doing your teeth. He makes it relaxing and is able to keep your mind away from his work (I have never liked going to the dentist, but Dr. Rehder makes the experience as close to pleasant as a dentist visit can be).

    ~Review by Mary Ellen M.

  • Thank you Dr. Rehder and Christine for the "always exciting" and "never a dull moment" orthodontist appointment. See you in two weeks to do it all over again. Ok maybe-not ALL over again.

    ~Review by Elena C.

  • I had a great experience with Dr. Rehder. He is very informative and professional. All of the staff were so nice and helpful. My overall experience was one of the best I had with a dental office. I would definitely recommend people to come here.

    ~Review by Paulina C.

  • Professional staff. Makes you feel at ease, would highly recommend.

    ~Review by Diane S.

  • Always wonderful visits at Pinefield Dental. I've been a patient since the very early 90s. The staff is my extended family & takes care of my teeth with the utmost professionalism. This is my dental home

    ~Review by Kenneth C.

  • The doctor and staff were wonderful. My experience is always great. The staff is very caring and always professional. The hours are very convenient as well. They will be able to accommodate anyone's schedule.

    ~Review by Amanda C.

  • Richard F. Gittleson, DDS Reviews No one likes/enjoys going to the dentist, but our dentist (Dr. Gittleson) and his staff are so pleasant they help relieve a patient fears.

    ~Review by Patricia L.

  • Highly recommended, I’ve been a patient since 1983.

    ~Review by Charles G.

  • Excellent.

    ~Review by Dom J.