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Comparing Sedation and Anesthesia

More than 20% of adult dental patients feel anxiety about upcoming dental work. In many cases, this dental fear stems from the anticipation of pain during a dental procedure. Modern dentistry prioritizes patient comfort and offers several options to prevent pain as well as induce calm feelings in the dental chair.

Sedation will help you feel relaxed, while anesthesia will stop potential pain. So while these medications differ, they often work together to improve the dental patient experience. Read on to learn more about anesthetic and sedation treatments available with dental work and how they differ from each other.

dental sedation and anesthetic treatments

Local Anesthetics

For many types of dental procedures, including common ones like cavity treatments, a dentist will give you a local anesthetic. This medicine is injected directly into a nerve to block pain signals from transmitting to the brain when stimulated. For even more comfort, a dentist can use a topical anesthetic on the affected area to stop potential pain from the jab.

The medicine will numb this portion of the mouth, a sensation that can last a few hours, meaning you will still feel this way once you return home from your dentist appointment. But a local anesthetic will not impact your awareness or consciousness in any way. So you can continue your usual activities unless your dentist recommends otherwise due to other factors of your dental work.

Sedation Dentistry Treatment

Sedation dentistry does not directly manage pain like anesthesia will. Instead, this type of medicine creates a feeling of relaxation to help nervous dental patients feel at ease. They can choose from two options to find the best treatment for their unique needs.

Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, is inhaled through a mask over the nose or mouth, causing the patient to relax almost immediately. They will maintain awareness throughout the dental work while feeling calm. Then when they breathe normally again, the effects should fade right away. So the patient will not have to worry about the treatment affecting the rest of their day.

A dentist may also offer oral sedation, which involves a tablet taken before a dentist appointment that makes a patient very relaxed but still conscious. Because this type of sedation is less controlled, the patient may feel groggy both before and after their dental procedure. They will need a lift to and from the dentist’s office, and they should factor this effect into their plans for the rest of the day.

General Anesthesia

General anesthesia refers to a type of pain management medicine delivered intravenously that will render a dental patient unconscious. You can sleep through the dental work and then wake up gradually after the dentist stops administering the medicine. You will likely feel drowsy until the following day though, so plan accordingly.

Dentists usually reserve this treatment for patients undergoing invasive procedures or those who suffer severe anxiety. So often, you will not need this medicine unless seeing a specialist for a complicated treatment. Learn more by calling your dentist today.