If you need to have a dental procedure performed, your dentist will generally give you the option to choose between general anesthesia and local anesthesia. Before choosing which method you’d prefer for your procedure, you should understand the differences between the two.
Local anesthetics numb the area where your procedure will occur. Dentists will typically use a topical anesthetic to numb the gums. Then, they will inject another local anesthetic deeper into your procedure site to numb the nerves.
Although you’ll be awake for the procedure, you shouldn’t be able to feel anything while it’s being performed. If you feel discomfort, be sure to let your dentist know. A procedure site that is not numb can cause painful sensitivity. If you can feel anything, your dentist can always apply more of the local anesthetic.
A few hours after your procedure, your local anesthetic will wear off. Your dentist may provide pain medication to help with any residual pain after the procedure.
Taking a general anesthesia could make your procedure much more comfortable because you will not be aware of what’s going on. Essentially, you’ll be asleep for the entire procedure. But, this method is costlier than local anesthesia. Before choosing a general anesthetic, you should check to see how much your dental insurance policy will cover.
General anesthesia is generally recommended for more complex procedures like wisdom tooth removal. “Going under,” as it’s called, is considered riskier than using a local anesthetic, especially for the elderly. Your dentist will likely not propose general anesthetics as an option unless it is absolutely necessary and feasible.
Typically, if you choose general anesthesia, your dentist will still apply a local anesthetic to reduce the pain of the procedure.