Local anesthesia, also commonly known as novocaine, is used during most dental procedures. This medication is administered as an injection designed to temporarily prevent the teeth nerve fibers from transmitting impulses, thereby numbing the area. The local anesthesia is the only type of anesthesia which, used alone, will completely eliminate pain. It is possible, however, to combine local anesthesia with various types of conscious sedation techniques to further reduce your awareness and anxiety with the procedure.
Nitrous oxide, or “laughing gas”, is the lightest form of conscious sedation. It is administered by breathing through a nasal mask. It has several very appealing properties. First, it is very short acting and is completely eliminated from the body minutes after turning it off, thereby allowing the patient to leave the office without an escort because there is no hang-over effect. Secondly, nitrous oxide can be patient regulated. If you want to feel more of its effects, you simply breathe more frequently and deeply. Conversely, if you breathe through your mouth, you will feel less of its effects. Finally, the last appealing property is the cost. The big drawback to nitrous oxide is that even at its highest level of effectiveness, it is only minimally effective at reducing awareness and anxiety. Although its effects vary from patient to patient, most patients feel nitrous oxide “just takes the edge off”.
Intravenous Sedation/General Sedation:
Intravenous Sedation, also known as “Twilight or Conscious Sedation”, will put you in a safe, relaxed, and comfortable state throughout your surgery. It is the most effective means of reducing awareness and anxiety for dental procedures. It is administered through an intravenous line (I.V.), and is therefore much more predictable in terms of effectiveness due to the quick onset of action. Although the patient is technically conscious throughout the procedure, in most cases, they will be completely unaware of the dental procedure. The disadvantage of conscious sedation is, of course, the increased cost and the need for an escort home after the procedure. But, for the patient who wants to be “the most” comfortable during the procedure, it is certainly the best way to go.