Pain Management – Anaesthesia
Pain is probably the number one cause of anxiety in most people when it comes to thinking about visiting a dentist. Unfortunately, some people avoid regular checkups, or even necessary treatment to correct a serious problem because they want to avoid pain.
Today, advances in medications and pain management mitigate most of the discomfort from having treatments performed on your teeth and gums. Following is a look at some of the common types of pain management tools available:
Most adults normally only require moderate amounts of anaesthetics to deal with any discomfort during most common dental procedures. Children, people with special needs, such as mental retardation, and those with a condition, such as a dental phobia may require a higher level of anaesthesia. The type of anaesthesia depends more on individual patient preferences than specific dental procedures. Anyone who has been to a dental procedure involving fillings, root canals, or crowns has more than likely received some form of anaesthetic to reduce or eliminate the pain caused from exposing a nerve.
Analgesics (pain-relievers) that are non-narcotic are the most commonly used drugs for relief of toothache or pain following dental treatment. This category includes aspirin, acetaminophen, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen. Narcotic analgesics, such as those with codeine, act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. They are used for more severe pain.
Often before a needle is administered to inject a pain killer, a patient may receive a topical (non-injected) anaesthetic that is applied to the tissues of your gums and mouth with a swab to prevent pain on the surface level. This is often performed to numb an area in preparation for administering an injectable local anaesthetic. Topical anaesthetics are also sometimes used to ease the pain of mouth sores.
Injectable local anaesthetics, such as Lignocain, prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth during treatment by blocking the nerves that sense or transmit pain and numbing mouth tissues. These kinds of anaesthetics are most often used in such procedures as filling cavities, preparing teeth for crowns, or treating gum disease.
Sedation and general anaesthesia
Nitrous oxide gas, or other kinds of anti-anxiety agents are used as sedatives to help you relax during a dental procedure. Sometimes, these kinds of anaesthetics are used in combination with local anaesthetics. This type of ‘conscious’ sedation helps the patient relax, but still be capable of talking or responding to touch. Sedatives can be administered before, during or after dental procedures by mouth, inhalation or injection.
More complex treatments produce deep sedation, which reduces consciousness in order to relieve both pain and anxiety. Sometimes, patients are administered general anaesthesia, in which drugs cause a temporary loss of consciousness. Deep sedation and general anaesthesia may be recommended in certain procedures for children or others who have severe anxiety or who have difficulty controlling their movements.
Because of the nature of anaesthetics and their sometimes unique effect on patients, it is important to share your medical history with your dentist so that they know of any potential reactions your body may have to anaesthesia. This includes illnesses or health conditions, medications you are taking, and any allergic conditions you may have.