Anesthetic and sedative use is routine in the field of dentistry and in the wider medical world. However, the exact mechanics behind how many common forms of anesthesia work are not well understood. Some have called anesthesia one of the great medical mysteries of our time. While mysterious, many also consider the discovery of anesthesia one of the most significant medical innovations of the modern era. Without a doubt, a majority of dental patients will at some point in their lives require anesthetics for their dental work. Many procedures would be nearly impossible without the use of anesthesia.
At ArtLab Dentistry anesthetics and sedatives are routinely used for a variety of dental and cosmetic therapies and treatments. We work extensively with each of our patients on a case-by-case basis to determine which anesthetic solution to use.
We consider each individual’s comfort level with the anesthetics recommended. We also only recommend and employ anesthetics and sedatives when absolutely necessary or when the use of such techniques will help ensure a successful result.
What Are Dental Anesthetics?
Dental anesthetics are medical drugs used to prevent pain in patients during surgery and dental procedures.
Anesthetics are a class of drugs used to either numb a specific area of the body of sensations or induce a degree of unconsciousness.
Sedation is different in intent and effect on the body. Sedation is typically employed to reduce a patient's anxiety and help them relax during surgery or to induce a level of drowsiness. During sedation, as compared to anesthesia, patients can still be stimulated by and respond to touch, light, and sound.
Both anesthesia and sedation require approval based on a thorough evaluation of a patient’s health by Dr. Reshad.
What Are the Different Types of Anesthesia and Sedation?
Anesthesia and sedation can be broken down into three different broad categories:
- Local anesthesia
- General anesthesia
Local anesthesia is typically delivered through an injection or topical application and is designed to physically numb sensations in a target area. A local infiltration injection numbs a minimal, targeted area. A block local injection numbs a broader region, such as the entire jaw. Patients who receive local anesthesia are entirely awake during the dental procedure and can often feel pressure although they cannot feel pain.
General anesthetics are given to patients who cannot tolerate pain and in complex dental cases that require extensive surgery, such as full mouth reconstruction.
During general anesthesia, a patient is “put to sleep.” Depending on the delivery vehicle, the drug used, and dosage amount, patients can be put to varying levels of sleep including a “twilight sleep” during which they are somewhat responsive, to a “deep sleep” in which they are completely unconscious and will not remember anything about the procedure. General anesthesia is typically delivered through an intravenous drip (IV) or through inhalation.
Sedatives are a third class of drugs, often in pill form, designed to help patients relax. Unlike local and general anesthesia, sedation does not block pain or sensation. Instead, sedation is designed to make patients more calm, compliant, and comfortable while still able to respond to physical stimuli.
Why is Anesthesia Used?
Anesthetics and sedatives are often applied and prescribed to provide patients a measure of comfort, reduce anxiety, and eliminate the immediate pain associated with surgery.
Are Dental Anesthetics Necessary?
Yes, depending on the procedure. Anesthesia and sedation plays an essential role in numbing critical parts of the mouth and blocking pain. For complex or challenging procedures where a compliant patient is critical, such as full mouth reconstructive surgery, general anesthesia may be administered.
Anesthetics and sedatives ensure a smooth, painless operation and allow our dental and surgical team to perform their best within a controlled environment. A squirming or anxious patient only makes the operation more difficult and reduces the likelihood of producing perfect results. Likewise, most patients would prefer not to feel pain during dental procedures.
Are Dental Anesthetics Safe?
Yes. The vast majority of anesthetics and sedative applications, when administered in a controlled medical environment, such as a dental clinic, are incredibly safe. Allergic reactions can be an issue, but most dental clinics screen for potential allergy complications before recommending anesthetics for a procedure.
General anesthesia is incredibly safe. There’s about a 0.0005% chance of a fatality which means that undergoing general anesthetics is actually significantly less dangerous than the public perception of it might suggest. In fact, it is considerably more hazardous simply commuting to work than being “put under” so to speak.
Fear of anesthesia, and to a lesser degree sedation, while understandable are generally unfounded in reality. The use and application of anesthesia and sedation in a dental context is incredibly safe and routine. Even when general anesthesia is required for more involved procedures, such as total oral reconstructive surgery, there are generally no discernible long-term ill effects. When anesthesia and sedation are administered by a trained professional in a controlled environment such as at ArtLab Dentistry, they are very safe.
Common Anesthesia Concerns
Some common concerns associated with anesthesia include a loss of control or being fully awake but unable to communicate during a procedure. The latter is a condition known as unintended intraoperative awareness (UIA).
Only 1 in 19,000 patients experience UIA, making it a very rare occurrence. Furthermore, UIA only affects patients receiving general anesthetics and is a non-issue for the vast majority of local anesthesia applications, such as lidocaine for a routine root canal.
Fatalities are even less common than UIA. According to Cleveland Clinic, deaths attributed to the use of anesthesia are less than 1 per 200,000 patients making it exceedingly rare. In fact, there is a much higher correlation between the risk of adverse effects and the type of procedure being performed. Open heart surgeries, for which general anesthesia is absolutely necessary, will carry more significant dangers of anesthesia-related mishaps than the vast majority of routine dental operations we perform at ArtLab Dentistry.
More common side effects of anesthesia and sedation include mild confusion, temporary memory loss, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, sore throat, shivering, sleepiness, and mild hoarseness. Generally, these side effects should only last a short amount of time after surgery as the anesthesia or sedatives wear off. In more severe cases, mainly affecting patients over the age of 70 years old, confusion, memory loss, or difficulty with cognitive tasks may last longer.
At ArtLab Dentistry we carefully and thoroughly evaluate patients, including their age and general health and fitness, when designing a dental treatment plan.
Dental Anesthetics Safety Statistics
- 60,000 patients undergo general anesthesia every day
- 1 in 19,000 patients experience UIA
- 1 per 200,000 patient fatalities attributable to anesthesia (0.0005%)
Artlab Dentistry’s Commitments
Artlab Dentistry is committed to providing a safe, comfortable, and the latest cutting-edge technology to achieve the best aesthetic and functional results.