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 anesthesia – one area of sedation dentistry.
Wisdom Teeth Anesthesia Options
Fear or anxiety over dental treatment is common for most people, especially when facing surgical procedures. Sedation dentistry uses medications to relax normally uncomfortable patients, explains the Academy of General Dentistry (AAG), thereby helping to manage the discomfort these patients experience during dental treatment. 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 anesthesia, you may not remember anything from the procedure once it's finished.
Removing a tooth that's fully visible in the mouth is a fairly simple procedure; it involves numbing with a local anesthetic, 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, nine out of 10 people have at least one impacted tooth, states Berks Oral Surgery.
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 offices recommend some type of sedation during the procedure.
Before deciding on the best option of anesthesia 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 offices today:
- Local anesthesia is the numbing medication injected into the area of the mouth to be treated. This type of anesthesia 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 ride to and from the dental office 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 AAG, is administered by taking medication orally or 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 anesthesia. You'll be groggy and need a ride home after the appointment.
- General anesthesia 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.
During their hospital-based surgical residency program, oral surgeons become highly trained in all aspects of administering anesthesia. According to the American Association of Oral Surgery and Maxillofacial Surgeons, oral surgeons are also well skilled in airway management, establishing intravenous lines and managing any complications that may arise.
If you've been delaying the necessary removal of your wisdom teeth, sedation can alleviate your apprehension about the procedure. And whichever method of anesthesia you decide on, you can trust your oral surgeon and his highly-trained anesthesia team to provide you with a safe and comfortable dental experience.