Dental anesthesia is one of the most important inventions in medicine, right up there with penicillin. It makes dental procedures pain free, rendering the dentist's job easy and eliminating the patient's anxiety.
It is only fitting that we learn more about the medication that allows us to have dental procedures without the infamous pain that haunts the nightmares of countless people.
Types of anesthetics
The way a dental patient will have their teeth numbed depends on the procedure being done. A patient who is to undergo a bone graft in the jaw is anesthetized differently than a patient who needs a tooth filled.
There are three types of anesthetics:
1. Local anesthetic
This is used to numb a limited area of the mouth in patients who need minor dental procedures. Local anesthetics can be used to numb a whole section of the mouth, like one half of a jaw, or a small area, such as a decayed tooth and the adjacent teeth. There are two types of local anesthetics:
Topical anesthetic: applied on the gum or inner cheek to numb the skin in preparation for the injectable anesthetic
Injectable local anesthetic: injected into the gum or inner cheek to numb a limited portion of the gum
The most commonly used local anesthetic is Lidocaine.
These are used in addition to local anesthetics. Their purpose is to calm the patient, especially one who is anxious. Sedatives can be taken orally, inhaled or injected into the bloodstream. Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is one of the most popular sedatives.
3. General anesthetic
It is administered intravenously to a patient about to undergo oral surgery. If a person is to be put under, they are directed to not eat for 12 hours prior to the procedure.
How does local anesthetic work?
Though the anesthetic is the active ingredient in the drug that a dentist administers, it is made effective by other compounds in the drug:
1. A vasoconstrictor prolongs the effect of the anesthetic by narrowing the blood vessels around the tooth.
2. There are several different sodium compounds in the drug. One keeps the vasoconstrictor from breaking down, another enables the anesthetic to work and a third one transports the drug into the bloodstream.
Risks of local anesthetic
Patients with medical conditions can be adversely affected by some of the components in an anesthetic. For example, a vasoconstrictor like adrenaline cannot be used on a hypertensive patient, so the drug must be modified to accommodate the patient's needs.
Other patients may be allergic to one or more components in the drug. Or, they may be on medication that could interact badly with the compounds in the drug. To avoid such outcomes, the dentist will always ask a patient for their comprehensive medical history before choosing the type of anesthetic to be used.
An anesthetic is nothing to worry about
The benefits of dental numbing are too many to count. All of them have to do with the prevention of anxiety and pain. The chances of having a bad reaction to an anesthetic are minimal, especially if you share your complete medical history with your dentist. Talk to one of our dentists to learn more.
What are you waiting for?
Call (530) 486-1104 today to reach Thomas Dental Care.
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