If your dentist recommends removing your wisdom teeth because they're decayed or aren't erupting correctly in your mouth, don't panic. As daunting as it sounds to have teeth extracted, this common process may not even be something you remember if you opt for wisdom teeth anaesthesia – one area of sedation dentistry.
What Is Sedation Dentistry?
Fear or anxiety over dental treatment is common for most people, especially when facing surgical procedures. Sedation dentistry uses medication to make anxious people feel more relaxed about receiving dental care, explains the National Health Service (NHS). In many instances, sedation keeps you somewhat conscious, but you may feel so calm and comfortable that you fall asleep on your own. And with deeper levels of anaesthesia, you may not remember anything from the procedure once it's finished.
Removing Wisdom Teeth
Removing a tooth that's fully visible in the mouth is a fairly simple procedure; it involves numbing with a local anaesthetic, and after a bit of work around the gum, the tooth is out. However, this is usually not the case with wisdom teeth. Located in the back of your mouth, most wisdom teeth don't have enough room to come in properly and are referred to as impacted. In fact, according to Elgin Dental Care, it is common to have one wisdom tooth that is impacted or troublesome.
Extracting impacted teeth usually requires the removal of some bone and gum tissue, making the procedure more involved than removing teeth that are positioned normally. And because all four teeth are usually removed at once, most practices recommend some type of sedation during the procedure.
Sedatives and Anaesthetics
Before deciding on the best option of anaesthesia for your extractions, you and your dentist will need to discuss your anxiety level and the procedure's complexity. Consider the most common types of sedation used in dental practices today:
- Local anaesthesia is the numbing medication injected into the area of the mouth to be treated. This type of anaesthesia blocks the sensation of pain during the procedure.
- Conscious sedation is typically achieved by taking an oral medication, along with an anti-anxiety pill, shortly before the procedure. The medication will make you drowsy and, if given in larger doses, may cause you to fall asleep during the procedure. You'll need a lift to and from the dental practice when taking this type of medication.
- Nitrous oxide or "laughing gas" is a controlled mix of nitrous oxide and oxygen that you breathe through a mask placed over your nose. This allows you to feel relaxed and less nervous about the treatment. The effects of the gas wear off quickly, allowing you to safely drive home after the procedure. Oral medication and the nitrous oxide are frequently used together, in which case you will not be able to drive yourself.
- Intravenous (IV) sedation, according to the NHS, is administered by taking medication through a vein. IV sedation works quickly, and although you are conscious and capable of responding to your dentist's visual signals, you won't remember much about your appointment. Because intravenous sedation does not provide pain relief, it is used in combination with local anaesthesia. You'll be groggy and need a lift home after the appointment.
- General anaesthesia is a combination of oral and IV medications that sedate you to a level where you are placed in a level of unconsciousness. Those who are heavily sedated may reach stages of complete unconsciousness. The best part is, once you're fully awake, you won't remember anything about the procedure.
Safety of Wisdom Teeth Anaesthesia
During their hospital-based surgical residency programme, oral surgeons become highly trained in all aspects of administering anaesthesia. As stated in an article for Continuing Education in Anaesthesia Critical Care & Pain, general anaesthesia may only be administered in a hospital setting where immediate access to critical care facilities is available if required.
If you've been delaying the necessary removal of your wisdom teeth, sedation can alleviate your apprehension about the procedure. And whichever method of anaesthesia you decide on, you can trust your oral surgeon and his or her highly-trained anaesthesia team to provide you with a safe and comfortable dental experience.