Types of Dental Anaesthesia
When most people think of dental anaesthesia, they think of the dreaded numbness associated with novocaine. While similar anaesthetics are used to this day, the field of dental anaesthesia covers not only local treatments, but in certain cases, general anaesthesia and sedation. The type of treatment that is needed determines which type of anesthesia is most appropriate for the procedure.
There are many different drugs, and they are used for various purposes. It’s important to discuss your medical history and any reactions with your dentist in advance of a procedure to best determine the best option for you. Whether you’re completely unconscious, or awake for the whole thing, with good anesthesia you won’t feel a thing.
Here are some of the types you may experience when visiting a dental care provider:
Articaine: Most commonly used in Europe, articaine is a local anesthetic that is applied to relieve pain in advance of a dental procedure. It is used also as a replacement for lidocaine for patients with hypokalemic sensory overstimulation, due to its level of effectiveness that lidocaine can’t offer. It is also believed to be more effective when used in the posterior first molar region, so dentists may choose it over lidocaine in a scenario where work is done in that area.
Bupivacaine: Another injectable local anesthesia, bupivacaine can last much longer than others, upwards of eight hours, making it ideal for long procedures. It is used in regular medicine, as well as dentistry more commonly than some of the other anaesthesias.
Lidocaine (also known as xylocaine and lignocaine): The most common of the local anesthetics, lidocaine works by numbing the tissue in the affected area. It is typically applied through injection into the site, allowing the dentist to do the necessary procedure. The patient remains awake throughout, with the numbness wearing off on its own between a half an hour and three hours. For longer procedures, it is mixed with epinephrine to extend its effectiveness. There’s a good chance if you’ve ever had a cavity filled that your dentist used lidocaine to numb the area.
Lidocaine has replaced novocaine in the dental medicine field, as it proved to be more effective and has been shown to cause fewer allergic reactions.
Nitrous Oxide (commonly known as laughing gas): Getting its nickname from the euphoric feeling it gives most patients, nitrous oxide is inhaled to give patients relief from pain in advance of and during a procedure. Dentists can determine the flow given to the patient, but must be used in a well ventilated area as the potency of the drug remains intact when exhaled. The patient remains aware during the procedure.
General anesthesia: For certain procedures, it is best for the patient to be unconscious or in a twilight sleep that renders them unaware of the pain associated with surgery. This is typically administered through an IV, and must be done so by a dentist trained in anesthesiology. There are various drugs that are available for such purposes, depending on the patient, allergies and what procedure is being performed.