If you’ve ever heard someone mention a root canal and what it entails, it may sound quite frightening and painful at first. Luckily, your dentist has medications available to help control pain for procedures that cause a little more discomfort than what you’re used to.
What is dental anesthesia?
Anesthesia is a way to control pain during a surgery or procedure by using medicine called anesthetics. Some types are meant to relieve pain in a localized area, while others help control anxiety to create a more relaxed, comfortable dental visit. Then there are stronger drugs that will help put you into a deep sleep during more extravagant procedures.
What types of anesthesia are there?
The most common type of anesthesia that is used in dentistry is a local anesthetic called lidocaine. It’s a simple form of anesthesia that is meant to prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth. It is done before any treatment and blocks the nerves that sense or transmit pain. This will then in turn ‘numb’ the tissue of the mouth. Lidocaine can be applied can be either topically, or injected directly into the gum. In most cases, there is a gel that is first applied to the tissue to desensitize the area, and the an injection is given to completely
You have probably heard of “laughing gas” at one time or another, but the proper medical term is nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a breathable gas that allows you to stay conscious, while providing pain relief and relaxation during a procedure. The amount administered can be changed at any time during a procedure to increase or decrease pain relieving properties.
Sedation anesthesia is a drug-induced suppression of consciousness. There are three different levels of sedation: minimal, moderate, and deep sedation. In most cases, you will feel no pain and will have limited to no memory at all of the procedure.
For cases where extensive work will be done, your doctor may recommend general anesthesia. This is hospital-grade anesthesia where it is administered intravenously. You will have complete loss of consciousness and will not feel a thing.
When is anesthesia necessary?
Anesthesia brings pain relief and is necessary in many dental procedures. Here are a list of procedures where some type of anesthesia may be administered:
Will dental anesthesia hurt?
If you don’t like needles, you may not be fond of the doctor administering local anesthesia. But luckily, it’s a very quick process. If a topical anesthetic (gel) is applied before injecting the needle into the gum, you may not even feel anything at all. You can even choose the flavor of the dental numb!
There are other tricks the dentist may use to make the process less painless, such as pulling the tissue tight or applying pressure. It is also important that the dentist injects the local anesthetic slowly, as injecting it too fast can cause a slight burning sensation.
If you are getting a sedative, it might be given intravenously. If you are nervous to get an IV, the dentist may give you nitrous oxide along with a numbing (gel) cream to relax you just enough to give the injection more painlessly.
What are the side effects of dental anesthesia?
As with any type of medication, anesthesia has the possible risk of side effects. Although the side effects of local anesthesia are few and far between, there are times where the anesthesia may go beyond the localized area and can cause cheeks, eyelids, or other facial muscles,0000 to droop. Some other side effects of localized anesthetic are:
- Hematoma (clotted blood in tissues)
- Nerve Damage
- Fast Heartbeat
Sedation and general anesthesia pose a much greater risk of side effects than localized anesthetics. The most common are nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and loss of short-term memory about the procedure (which is preferred). However, effects may vary greatly with each patient — it all depends on how your body reacts to it. It’s very important to inform your dentist of any prior experiences that you have had with anesthesia. This gives the Doctor an ability to treat you properly.
What are the costs of dental anesthesia?
Dental offices usually charge by the hour for anesthesia. According to a survey conducted by TheWealthyDentist.com, the average cost of IV sedation is $500. General anesthesia can cost up to $1,000 or more, depending on the complexity of dental procedure. It’s also important to keep in mind that these costs are in addition to the services that you are getting.
The majority of dental insurance doesn’t cover sedation anesthesia as it is seen more of a luxury. Even if insurance does cover sedation, you should know that most dental insurance policies only cover $1,000 to $1,500 in treatment costs per year. The fee for your procedure plus the cost of sedation may likely be over your policy’s coverage.
Many dental savings plans offer discounts on sedation and anesthesia services. The best part about dental savings plans is there is no annual coverage cap. This enables you to save 10% to 60% on the cost of your treatment, no matter how much the total cost is, or how often you need to go to the dentist. Metrodent dental plan posts a fee schedule that enables you to see exactly what your costs will be prior to having treatment.
It is important to talk to your dentist when deciding which drugs to use for your treatment. The type of procedure, your overall health, history of allergies and your anxiety level, are all important factors that should be considered when determining which approach is best for you.
This article was reviewed and approved by a board certified dentist.