Why do I need anesthesia at the dental office?
To make your dental visit as comfortable as possible, your dentist may suggest
anesthesia to reduce or eliminate any pain or anxiety that may be related to your
dental treatment. The type of anesthesia required for any dental procedure depends
on the needs or preferences of the patient.
How do I know if I'm a candidate for dental anesthesia?
You and your dentist will decide what level of anesthesia is right for you. Some
patients prefer a higher level of anesthesia than others. Children, people with
special needs, such as mental retardation, and those with a condition, such as
a dental phobia may require a higher level of anesthesia.
What are the levels of dental anesthesia?
Local anesthesia is produced by the application or injection of a drug to eliminate
pain in a specific area in the mouth. Topical anesthetics are frequently used
by your dentist to numb an area in preparation for administering an injectable
local anesthetic. Injectable local anesthetics, such as Lidocaine, numb mouth
tissues in a specific area of your mouth for a short period of time. Your dentist
will probably inject a local anesthetic before filling cavities, preparing your
teeth for crowns, or for any surgical procedure. Local anesthesia is the most
commonly used form of anesthesia in the dental office.
Conscious sedation can be used to help you relax during a dental procedure. Your
dentist may administer an anti anxiety agent, such as nitrous oxide, or a sedative,
in combination with a local anesthetic for pain. During conscious sedation, you
will remain calm during treatment, yet rational and responsive to speech and touch.
Anti-anxiety agents and sedatives can be administered by mouth, inhalation or
Deep sedation and general anesthesia is used for complex procedures and for patients
who have trouble controlling their movements or need a deeper level of anesthesia
during treatment. During deep sedation you will be unable to respond appropriately
to verbal commands. During general anesthesia you will be unconscious.
What should I tell my dentist before receiving anesthesia?
Your dentist needs to know about all the medications that you are taking, any
allergic reactions you've had to medicines in the past, and your past and present
health conditions. It's important that you answer your dentist's questions completely
and ask about your concerns. This way your dentist will be sure to tell you everything
you need to know before receiving treatment. For example, in some cases, your
anesthesia treatment may require that you suspend certain medications or abstain
from eating or drinking for a period of time before the treatment.
Is anesthesia in the dental office safe?
Although taking any medication involves a certain amount of risk, the drugs that
produce anesthesia are entirely safe when administered by a trained anesthesia
provider. The best thing to do is ask questions about any procedure that you are
not familiar with. Ask about alternatives, training, the doctor's commitment to
continuing education and the credentials of other personnel in the dental office
who might be assisting with your treatment. Good communication between the dentist
and the patient is the best way of insuring safety.
Members of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) are required to take 75 hours of continuing dental education every three years to remain in good standing.
The AGD Fellowship and Mastership awards reflect additional hours of experience
Sources: James Chancellor, DDS, MAGD, "Morbidity and Mortality Associated with
the Pharmacologic Management of Pain and Anxiety," Compendium of Continuing Dental
Education, Vol. XIV, No.6; "Guidelines for Teaching the Comprehensive Control
of Pain and Anxiety in Dentistry," American Dental Association 1992; "Understanding
Dental Anesthesia: What Every Patient Should Know, " American Dental Association
This information was compiled for you by the Academy of General Dentistry. Your
dentist cares about long-term dental health for you and your family and demonstrates
that concern by belonging to the Academy of General Dentistry. As one of the 35,000
general dentists in the United States and Canada who are members of the Academy,
your dentist participates in an ongoing program of professional development and
continuing education to remain current with advances in the profession and to
provide quality patient treatment. Visit the AGD's website at www.agd.org. You
have permission to photocopy this page and distribute it to your patients.