What You Should Know About Dental Anesthesia

What You Should Know About Dental Anesthesia

Anesthesia is a state of controlled, medically induced, temporary loss of awareness or sensation. A patient under the effects of anesthesia is considered being anesthetized. Its usage depends on the patient's age and health condition, duration of the procedure, and any history of adverse reactions to anesthetics in the past.

The success of dental anesthesia depends on the drug that is given, the procedure, and the duration of the dental treatment.

Types of Dental Anesthesia

There are three main types of anesthesia: 

  1. Local Anesthesia

    This is used for more straightforward procedures, like a cavity filling. You are usually conscious, can communicate during the process if you are on a local anesthetic, and will not feel pain since the treatment area will be numb.

    Local anesthetics quickly take effect in about 10 minutes and last between 30 to 60 minutes. A vasopressor, like epinephrine, is sometimes added to the anesthetic to amplify its impact and prevent it from spreading to other areas. 

    It is available as OTC and prescription medicine in gel, ointment, cream, spray, patch, liquid, and injection forms. They can be used topically or injected into the area to be treated. 
    Examples- Articaine, bupivacaine, mepivacaine, prilocaine

  2. Sedation

    Sedation has several levels of use. It can be used to induce mild to deep consciousness, aid with pain and anxiety, or keep patients still. In some cases, it can also result in procedural amnesia. 

    Sedation has three categories: mild, moderate, and deep. Mild sedation can result in you being fully conscious and able to respond to commands, whereas moderate sedation leaves you semiconscious and deep sedation makes you hardly conscious. 

    Deep sedation is also known as monitored anesthesia care (MAC). In deep sedation, you are usually unaware of your surroundings and can only respond to repetitive or painful stimulation. It can be administered orally (tablet or liquid), inhaled, intramuscularly (IM), or intravenously (IV). Examples- Valium, midazolam, propofol (Diprivan), nitrous oxide

  3. General Anesthesia

    It is used for lengthy procedures or if you suffer from anxiety that might interfere with your treatment. You are entirely unconscious, do not feel pain, have relaxed muscles, and will have no memory of the procedure. It is administered through a face mask or IV, and its level depends on the procedure being performed and the patient's condition. 

    Examples- Propofol, midazolam, diazepam, desflurane and more.

Side Effects Of Dental Anesthesia

Significant side effects of dental amnesia include:

  • Nausea vomiting
  • Headache
  • Sweating or shivering
  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness
  • Lockjaw (trismus)
  • Heart and blood pressure problems

Special Precautions 

Certain medical conditions might call for discussions with your dentist to know if dental anesthesia is the best choice for you. Ask your doctor about risks and safety precautions for a better outcome. Patients who need extra precautions while dealing with dental anesthesia include pregnant women, patients with special needs, older adults, and patients with liver, kidney, lung, or heart ailments. Patients suffering from sleep apnea, seizures, obesity, blood pressure, children with attention or behavior disorders, etc., have a higher risk from dental anesthesia. Additionally, let your dental team know if you have any medications in use.


The majority of patients do not experience any adverse reactions due to dental anesthesia. However, older adults, people with medical conditions, and people with bleeding disorders or those taking aspirin can face higher anesthesia risks. Such risks include:

  • Itching 
  • Swelling of tongue, lips, mouth, or throat
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Nerve damage
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Low blood pressure
  • Malignant hyperthermia 


Before your treatment, discuss all your concerns and expectations with your dental care team. Ask about any special instructions and dietary limitations that need to be followed, mention all of your medical histories, and provide contact information in case of complications or questions. 

Contact us at Campustown Dental, your very own Ames Dentist, on all queries related to dental anesthesia. We offer comprehensive dental care services, including general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, dental anxiety treatment, etc.


Campustown Dental

Campustown Dental, located in Ames, Iowa is a family dental care center committed to restoring and enhancing the healthy smile of you and your family. Our highly skilled dental team is dedicated to delivering the most comprehensive and affordable dental care accessible in the most comfortable surroundings.

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