Several medications are available to help create more relaxed, comfortable dental visits. Some drugs control pain, some help you relax, and others put you into a deep sleep during dental treatment.
You and your dentist can discuss a number of factors when deciding which drugs to use for your treatment: the type of procedure, your overall health, history of allergies and your anxiety level are considered when determining which approach is best for your particular case.
Non-narcotic analgesics are the most commonly used drugs for relief of toothache or pain following dental treatment. This category includes aspirin, acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen. Narcotic analgesics, such as those containing codeine, act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. They are used for more severe pain.
Topical anesthetics are applied to mouth tissues with a swab to prevent pain on the surface level. Your dentist may use a topical anesthetic to numb an area in preparation for administering an injectable local anesthetic. Topical anesthetics also may be used to soothe painful mouth sores.
Injectable local anesthetics prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth during treatment by blocking the nerves that sense or transmit pain and numbing mouth tissues. They cause the temporary numbness often referred to as a "fat lip" feeling. Injectable anesthetics may be used in such procedures as filling cavities, preparing teeth for crowns or treating periodontal disease.
Anti-anxiety agents may help you relax during dental visits and often may be used along with local anesthetics. Dentists also can use these agents to induce "minimal or moderate sedation," in which the patient achieves a relaxed state during treatment but can respond to speech or touch.
More complex treatments may require drugs that can induce "deep sedation," causing a loss of feeling and reducing consciousness in order to relieve both pain and anxiety. On occasion, patients undergo "general anesthesia," in which drugs cause a temporary loss of consciousness. Deep sedation and general anesthesia may be recommended in certain procedures for children or others who have severe anxiety or who have difficulty controlling their movements.© American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.