Dental anesthesia is generally broken into three types: local, sedation, and general.
Local anesthesia. Local anesthesia, as the American Dental Association (ADA) describes, is used to prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth by blocking the nerves that sense or transmit pain, numbing the mouth tissue. A topical anesthetic may be used to numb an area before your oral care provider injects a local anesthetic. Here are some uses of local anesthesia the ADA mentions:
- Topical anesthetics are used to soothe mouth sores.
- Injectable anesthetics may be used to fill cavities, prepare teeth for crowns, or treat gum disease.
Sedation. There are various levels of sedation, from minimal to deep. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), minimal sedation involves the localization of an anesthetic with the calming effects of “laughing gas.” Deep sedation involves a complete depression of consciousness with the ability to awake the person if necessary. Sedation is used for the following, says the AAOMS:
- Minimal sedation can be used to relieve anxiety from simple procedures.
- It is also used in more involved procedures like removing wisdom teeth or the placement of dental implants.
- More moderate sedation can be used for the treatment of impacted wisdom teeth.
General anesthesia. When you think of "being put to sleep" for surgery, you're thinking of general anesthesia. This type of anesthesia impacts the whole body, putting people in a relaxed, unconscious state to undergo a procedure without any awareness of the process. The intention behind general anesthesia is that the person doesn't wake up or feel anything during the procedure. General anesthesia is used for:
- Wisdom tooth removal
- Dental implant placement
- Other more extensive oral surgical procedures
According to the AAOMS, your oral or maxillofacial surgeon and/or dentist will determine the best option for you as anesthesia needs vary for different people.