Fear of pain is one of the main reason people avoid seeing the dentist. The good news is that there is a wide array of medications and techniques — used alone or in combination — that can reduce or eliminate pain and control anxiety during most procedures. And in most cases a short appointment with the dentist can help get you out of pain, you may have been experiencing.Medications at the Dentist’s Office
- Topical anaesthetics. Topical anaesthetics, applied with a swab, are routinely used to numb the area in the mouth or gums where the dental work will be done. The topical anaesthetic is given prior to injection with a local anaesthetic, such as Lidocaine.
- Laser drills. Some dentists are now using lasers to remove decay within a tooth and prepare the surrounding enamel for placement of the filling. Lasers may cause less pain in some instances and result in a reduced need for anaesthesia.
- Nitrous oxide (also called laughing gas). This gas, which is inhaled by the patient through a rubber face mask, helps people feel relaxed and is one of the most common forms of sedation used in the dental office. Effects wear off quickly after the gas is turned off. This is the only form of sedation under which patients can drive after the procedure.
- Intravenous sedation. This form of pain and anxiety control involves injecting a sedative into a vein of a patient’s arm or hand. This approach is usually reserved for patients undergoing extensive dental procedures or for the extremely anxious patient. If you think you may be interested in IV sedation, ask your dentist if they are licensed to administer intravenous sedatives.
- General anaesthesia. With this technique, the patient is “put to sleep” for the duration of the procedure. Patients requiring general anaesthesia can be treated in the speciality dentist’s office, but more likely are treated in a hospital setting. This is because this type of anaesthesia has risks, which include a sudden drop in blood pressure and irregular heartbeats, so the patient needs to be closely monitored. For these reasons, general anaesthesia is typically only used if extensive dental work is needed and when other forms of sedation or pain control are not sufficient to conquer fear.
It’s important to discuss all of these options with your dentist. It is also important to tell your dentist about any illnesses or health conditions you may have if you are taking any prescription or nonprescription drugs, or if you ever experienced any problems or have any allergies to any medications.Using all of this information, your dentist will work with you to determine which anxiety- and pain-reducing approach may be the best option for you. Also know that your dentist may be licensed to administer some, but not necessarily all, of the pain- and anxiety-reducing strategies identified here.