Pain and Dentistry have a long association for years. Dental procedures such as complex root canal surgeries, tooth extraction, wisdom tooth problems, etc. involve a lot of pain for the patient and hence, were dreaded since years. However, with the advancement of medical technology, and the introduction of new techniques and equipment – painless dentistry has become a reality. In fact, if in this era, a dental procedure is causing a lot of pain, it is not being done in the right manner. It is because with the advent of new technologies, procedures, knowledge, etc. dental treatment has now become painless.
Painless Dentistry is also referred to as sedation dentistry and involves usage of dental anaesthetics such as local, sedation or general to effectively calm the patient before initiating an invasive, painful procedure. Painless dentistry is not only effective in reducing anxiety but it also aims to numb the particular area that needs to be treated. This allows the dentists to conduct the procedure smoothly, without causing pain to the patient. The duration of the procedure and the effect of anaesthetic correspond in length so that the patient experiences painless treatment.
Types of Dental Anaesthetics
Types of dental anaesthetics that are administered to patients in dental procedures can be of the following types:
Local Anaesthesia: Local anaesthesia is administered in patients for simple procedures such as cavity filling, cleaning, repairs, etc. The procedures take a relatively shorter time to complete and are less complicated. In local anaesthesia, the effect of the sedation is mild and the patient is awake during the procedure, as well as able to communicate. However, the patient does not feel any pain. Moreover, the patient remains calm throughout the procedure. Local anaesthesia takes effect within 10 minutes of being administered to the patient and lasts about 30 to 60 minutes. Local anaesthesia is available in forms of gel, ointment, cream, spray, patch, etc. and can be applied directly or injected into the target area.
Sedation: Sedation has several levels such as mild, moderate and deep, and is used to completely relax a patient who experiences anxiety, pain, or is restless during a procedure. Depending on the type of sedation, the patient can be fully conscious, semi-conscious and barely conscious.Sedation can be given through oral methods – tablet or liquid, inhaled or be given intramuscularly and intravenously. Sedation that is given through intravenous methods is riskier and requires careful monitoring. This is useful in slightly intense procedures such as braces, crowns, caps, root canals, bridges, etc.
General Anaesthesia: This is the most intense form of anaesthetics and is used for longer procedures to ensure there is no pain felt by the patient since the patient is completely unconscious. General anaesthesia is administered in cases of highly complex dental procedures such as gum surgery, complex bonding treatment, dentures, etc.General anaesthesia is administered through a face mask or intravenously. The level of general anaesthesia depends on the type of procedure and the condition of the patient.That said, the type of anaesthetics administered depends on factors such as the age of the patient, health or condition, length of the procedure, and any negative impacts of anaesthetics in the past.
Side Effects of Painless Dentistry
On a general level, painless dentistry is very safe and does not cause permanent or significant side effects. Also, the type and intensity of side effects depend on the type and the level of sedation or anaesthesia. However, some of the general side effects of sedation and anaesthesia include:
- Excessive sweating
- Blurred speech
- Dry mouth
- Sore throat
- Lockjaw – a temporary condition that reduces the jaw functioning due to trauma from surgery
That said, it is critical to understand the type, level and need of anaesthesia or sedation required in each case. It is best to discuss all relevant details with the dentists before the procedure. Some cases that must be informed include:
- Special needs
- Past reactions
- Liver problem
- Chronic kidney issues
- Heart problems
- Lung problems
- Neurologic conditions
- Gastric bypass surgery
- Other conditions such as hiatal hernia, acid reflux, infections, open sores, etc.
Moreover, people with the below problems are at more risk from dental anaesthesia or sedation.
- Sleep apnea
- Seizure disorders
- Behavioural disorders
- Blood pressure problems
- Drug use and abuse
That said, risks and side effects are rarely observed in painless dentistry cases. Anaesthesia and sedation are highly safe and have helped millions of patients get dental treatment without experiencing any pain. Painless dentistry is safe and is very much a reality today. However, it is always advisable to consult your dentist and disclose all relevant information, before any dental procedure to ensure 100 per cent safety.