Local anesthesia has emerged over the last half century as one of the most effective tools in dentistry. Its use has literally revolutionized pain control and led to a new description of care known as comfortable dentistry.
The term “local” indicates that the numbing agent is applied only to the area affected by the procedure to temporarily block nerve sensation while the patient remains conscious. Some topical anesthetics are applied to the surface of the lining tissues of the mouth with a cotton swab, adhesive patch or spray to immediately numb the area. While topical anesthetics are sometimes used to increase comfort during teeth cleaning, they’re most often used to block the feeling of the needle prick of an injectable “local” anesthetic. Injectable “local” anesthetics provide a deeper numbing of the teeth, gums and bones.
Along with other calming or sedative techniques, local anesthesia is especially helpful in lowering a patient’s anxiety and stress levels during treatment. It’s a necessity during treatments like decay removal, deep root cleaning, fillings, tooth extractions or gum surgery because the nerve-rich tissues of the mouth are especially sensitive to pain. There are some treatments, however, that don’t call for anesthesia such as enamel removal or shaping (unless the more sensitive dentin below the enamel layers has been exposed).
One common complaint about local anesthesia is the lingering numbness a patient may continue to feel even a few hours after their visit. This inconvenience can be reduced by using different types of anesthetics, and there are now agents that can be applied after a procedure to reverse the effects of an anesthetic.
Local anesthesia benefits both you the patient and your dental professional — you’re more comfortable and less stressful during your visit, and your dentist or hygienist can work more effectively knowing you’re at ease. A pain-free, anxiety-free treatment atmosphere contributes greatly to your long-term dental health.
If you would like more information on the use and benefits of local anesthesia for dental procedures, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Local Anesthesia for Pain-Free Dentistry.”