Many people have a fear of being put under—put into a state of unconsciousness through the use of general anesthesia. In dental procedures, local anesthesia is a very effective alternative. It offers many advantages over general anesthesia.
What is local anesthesia?
Local anesthesia, sometimes referred to as regional anesthesia, numbs only the areas of the body that are to be effected by a surgery or procedure. With dentistry, local anesthesia is used for most procedures, such as fillings, implants, inlays, and root canals, among other things. Local anesthesia allows the patient to remain awake and alert without feeling any of the pain associated with the procedures.
How does it work?
Local anesthesia works by numbing the nerves of the area to be worked on. It blocks the nerve impulses of the area. It is applied either through a topic solution or, more commonly, a syringe injection.
Will it hurt when it's applied?
Injection can be a bit uncomfortable, as with any shot, but the pain will pass quickly as the drug takes effect.
What are the risks?
There are few risks involved when using local anesthesia. Negative reaction to the drug is a possibly with any kind of anesthesia, but is far more common when dealing with a general anesthesia or nerve block. Too much anesthesia can lead to convulsions, or even cardiac arrest, but a skilled anesthesiologist is very careful during the application process, checking often to be sure that the drug is going where it's supposed to and that too much is not being applied. If you have any questions or concerns, talk with your dentist about them prior to your procedure.
What are the advantages of local anesthesia?
It is thought to be less risky than general anesthesia, with fewer side effects. It also allows you to be awake and alert during the procedure, so you are available to answer questions. There is no “recovery period” where you feel groggy waiting for the medication to wear off. With local anesthesia, you can leave the dentist's office and go about your day as you normally would, with no restrictions on driving, working, or decision making.