One of the most common reasons people put off important dental work and avoid going to the dentist is because they are afraid. Many people associate dentistry with pain and discomfort. The truth is that most dental procedures can be done with little or no pain, but that doesn’t matter if somebody is already very scared about visiting the dentist. The next two blog posts are going to explain some options for patients who have a lot of anxiety about dentistry.
Local anesthesia is the technical term for the numbing medicine that is given for most dental procedures. This is commonly referred to as “novocain”. Novocain was the name of a popular anesthetic in the past, but in recent decades has been replaced by lidocaine, which works better. There are several other types of local anesthetic that are also used by dentists, but lidocaine is the most commonly used. Local anesthetics work by blocking the pain signal sent from nerves to the brain. This allows the dentist to work on the teeth or gums without the patient feeling any pain whatsoever. The patient is still fully alert and aware of what is happening. Local anesthesia is used by all dentists for procedures that would otherwise be painful.
Nitrous oxide is also known as laughing gas. Nitrous oxide has been used in dentistry for many years. It provides a small amount of pain relief (analgesia), but its biggest benefit comes from the sense of relaxation and calm that it provides. With nitrous oxide, patients are still awake, but they feel somewhat disconnected from their surroundings and are less concerned about what is happening around them. It works very well for people who are mildly to moderately anxious about dental treatment. Nitrous oxide is used in combination with local anesthesia for dental procedures.
With nitrous oxide, a small rubber nosepiece is placed over the patient’s nose, and the patient breathes a combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen. The amount of nitrous oxide can be adjusted for the patient’s comfort. After the procedure is finished and the nitrous oxide is turned off, it only takes about two minutes for the effects to wear off. It’s very safe and the most common unwanted side effect is upset stomach.
In the next post, we will discuss some other options for anxiety management that can make dental appointments easier.