People who worry about the occasional pain that comes with visiting the dentist can find relief in a variety of anesthetics. These temporary pain-relievers come in three main types: topical, local and general. Topical anesthetics help relieve pain on the surface of the mouth and generally come in the form of an ointment, liquid or spray. They can be administered as both a prescription and over-the-counter medication. At the dentist, topical anesthetics may be used to numb a person’s gum in order to apply a local anesthetic or to relieve minor sores and pains on the surface tissue. Topical treatments generally last only 15 to 30 minutes.
The next category above topical anesthetics is local anesthesia. Unlike topical treatments, local anesthetics are actually injected into the oral tissue. Often, a dentist will first use a topical treatment and then inject the local anesthetic, helping to minimize the pain of the patient. As their name suggests, local anesthetics are contained to one area of the mouth, such as just one side of the upper jaw. These treatments last longer than topical anesthetics and may cause a person to experience a numbing sensation for a few hours after the appointment.
The last type of temporary pain relief is general anesthesia. General anesthetics are usually inhaled and cause the patient to fall asleep temporarily in a controlled setting. Many times, dentists will use general anesthesia both for complicated procedures (such as the removal of wisdom teeth) and for anxiety relief in people who suffer from extreme anxiousness at the dentist. While under general anesthesia, a person cannot feel any pain or become aware of the ongoing procedure.
However, no matter what type of anesthesia your dentist recommends at your next visit, he or she will first make sure the treatment is in line with any allergies or concerns you may have. Talk to your dentist and find out which treatments work best for your particular situation. This is especially important if you have any oral surgery procedures coming up. With the proper anesthetic, you can minimize the pain and go home with a healthier mouth.