A local anesthetic is the first line of defense against the discomfort of a dental procedure. This type of anesthetic is injected into the gums near the treatment area, blocking the nerves that transmit pain sensations. Many patients only need local anesthesia to feel comfortable, but those who have dental anxiety or are undergoing lengthy, invasive procedures may need something else to help them relax.
One option is the inhalation of nitrous oxide, which produces euphoric feelings and offers a minimal level of sedation. The effects of nitrous oxide wear off quickly without unpleasant aftereffects, allowing patients to drive themselves home when the procedure is over.
For deeper levels of relaxation, oral or IV sedation may be used. The dentist can induce mild or moderate drowsiness using anti-anxiety drugs at varying dosages. Oral sedation is administered in pill form in advance of the procedure and needs time to take effect. IV sedation is administered through an intravenous line immediately before the procedure and works much faster. Patients undergoing oral and IV sedation often report being in dream-like states and frequently do not remember the procedure at all. These medications take time to wear off, so patients need to organize a ride home from the dentist’s office after the dental work is complete.