How Do Anesthetics and Sedatives Work for Dentists?

How Do Anesthetics and Sedatives Work for Dentists?

There is a lot of controversy and concern in the medical field when it comes to pain management. The availability or composition of sedatives has been a hot medical topic ever since Queen Victoria had access to chloroform as a painkiller during childbirth. There are still debates raging around the accessibility of opioids in the medical industry since the 1990s.  There are even some former pediatric patients and current people of color, who either underwent or still are undertreated for pain management thanks to bias.  But dentists have a slightly different situation than other medical fields. Even just a routine cleaning is enough to get people anxious, which is not something that most general practitioners could say. This can make a person wonder, “What kind of anesthesia options are there? What makes them up? Is there a difference in composition between one or another? Let’s find out.

How Do Anesthetics and Sedatives Work for Dentists?What kind of Anesthetics are in a Dentist’s Office?

Local Anesthesia

This is the most common of the bunch. As the name implies, this type of anesthesia is specifically for treating a small area. There is no sedation with local anesthesia and works to numb nerve endings. After all, there is no need to be knocked out entirely if you just need a single filling.

According to the American Dental Association, “Local anesthesia is a type of medication that is in use to prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth during treatment. It does this by blocking the nerves that sense or transmit pain, which in turn, numbs mouth tissues. Your dentist may apply a topical anesthetic to numb an area before injecting a local anesthetic. Topical anesthetics also may be used to soothe painful mouth sores.”

It is less about knocking out a person altogether or relaxing muscles, and more about dulling pain in an area.

Regional Anesthesia

According to, ” Regional Anesthesia numbs a larger (but still limited) part of the body and does not make the person unconscious. Sometimes medicine is added to help the person relax or fall asleep.”

So, instead of numbing just an area surrounding the tooth, regional anesthesia might numb the entire jaw. This is possible if someone has multiple cavities, or might be a little too tense in oral muscles.  While sedation is possible here, it isn’t a requirement.

General Anesthesia

For the most extreme procedures, such as oral surgery,  dentists in Austin, Texas or anywhere else in the world usually have access to general anesthesia. General anesthesia is a cocktail of desflurane, isoflurane, and sevoflurane are the most common combination.  The three compounds are gaseous by nature and can only bind with oils to achieve any sort of liquid state.

  • Desflurane maintains anesthesia.
  • Isoflurane is a muscle relaxant and pain sensitivity reducer.
  • Sevoflurane induces the anesthesia.

While this cocktail is popular today, it is far from the only combination out there. This current mixture is common in a dentists office because it does the job without doing too much harm to our bodies. It is more of a heavy hitter when it comes to the sedation spectrum because the patient will not be aware of their surroundings. At all. Physically or mentally. It is safe for most patients, and the side effects, while there, are for the most part minimal.

Still, it does have the chance of causing side effects like an upset stomach or even an addiction. Especially if a patient does not follow the dentist’s instruction to the letter. Like not abstaining from food and drink a few hours before the procedure, or drinking alcohol beforehand.

If you talk to your doctor/dentist honestly about your lifestyle and follow their instructions, the most that will happen is that you will fall asleep before the procedure and wake up a little groggy afterward.

How Do Anesthetics and Sedatives Work for Dentists?How are Anesthesia and Sedation Determined?

An accredited Dentist in Austin Texas, or really anywhere, that can administer these painkillers will examine everything on a case by case basis. They would first, examine the situation to see if anesthesia or sedation is really required.  Sedation might be necessary if a patient has:

  • Phobia related to dental procedures
  • Bad experience with dental work in the past
  • Particularly sensitive oral nerves
  • A small mouth that becomes sore during dental work
  • Resistance to local anesthetic
  • General anxiety disorder

Then there is medical compatibility that needs addressing.  Is the patient:

  • Older?
  • A Smoker?
  • A Drinker?
  • Already on sedation medication?
  • Have a history of drug abuse?

So, after weighing the odds, they would proceed from there.

Sedation and anesthesia present a plethora of issues and factors for dentists in Austin, Texas to handle. But with everything else in life, we try, we keep track, and we do our best to serve our patients. If you are looking for a dentist in Austin, Texas, feel free to visit:

Scroll to Top