Dental surgery: will I need an anaesthetic or sedation?

To make the experience as painless and comfortable as possible, dental surgery will require the patient to have some form of anaesthetic.

In the vast majority of cases where dental treatment such as fillings or tooth extraction are needed the dentist will use a local anaesthetic.

What is a local anaesthetic?

Local anaesthetic sees a drug injected into the gums around the tooth to be treated, which makes the area go numb. This works by blocking nerve receptors so you do not feel any pain, although you may still be aware of movement this will not hurt.

Local anaesthetic takes just minutes to work and the numb feeling should wear off within a few hours. Patients remain awake and alert during treatment and can communicate with their dentist.

It is the preferred form of pain relief during dental surgery as its use is quick, easy and largely risk-free. Complications related to its use are very rare.

The only discomfort a patient would be expected to feel is when the local anaesthetic is injected.

However, there are times when dental surgery also requires sedation – this is usually in the cases of extremely anxious patients.

When do dental patients need sedation?

When local anaesthetic is being used the patient will co-operate with the dentist on some level – staying relaxed, opening wide etc.

For patients suffering from serious dental anxiety this is something they may not be capable of. In these cases, it may be that the use of a sedative to relax them is the solution.

By inhaling gas and air (nitrous oxide) dental patients will become relaxed and, unlike general anaesthetic, will not have to lose consciousness. The effects last for only a short time – as little as 15 minutes.

Patients may also be offered intravenous sedation (IV sedation), which sees a drug injected into the patient. Again for severely anxious patients, IV sedation allows the patients to remain conscious through treatment, although in a deep state of relaxation – and due to the effects of the drug they are unlikely to remember anything from the procedure.

The use of IV sedation is very safe, but the effects can take some time to wear off, so patients need the support of an adult on the day of treatment.

General anaesthetic

The use of general anaesthetic is very much a last resort in dental treatment.

It would only really be used in cases of complicated dental surgery – or in a tiny minority of people who are unsuitable for IV sedation.

General anaesthetic, where patients are unconscious, carries a higher risk of complications. As such its use is generally restricted to hospitals, where more complex dental surgery would take place.

In the vast majority of cases though, dental treatment is quick, easy and over within an hour.

If you have any concerns about dental treatment please get in touch with Bhandal Dental Surgery without hesitation