Medications Can Make Dental Visits More Relaxed and Comfortable

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.

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  1. Preparation – If you need local anesthesia, your dentist will dry part of your mouth with air or use cotton rolls. Then your dentist will swab the area with a gel to numb the skin.

  2. Injection – Next, your dentist will slowly inject the local anesthetic into the gum tissue. Most people don't feel the needle. Instead, the sting they feel is caused by the anesthetic moving into the tissue.

  3. After effects – An injection of local anesthesia can last up to several hours. After you leave the dentist's office, you may find it difficult to speak clearly and eat or drink. Be careful not to bite down on the area that is numbed. You could cause damage to yourself without realizing it.