Sorting out the different types of anesthesia, and knowing which one is best for you, can be confusing. This is especially true with in-patient oral surgery procedures, where patients are sometimes given several options, and need to choose which type of anesthesia they feel most comfortable with.
- Local Anesthesia - Topical anesthetics, such as novocaine and lidocaine, numb a small area of the mouth. They are commonly used by the oral surgeon for simple extractions. They can also be used in combination with other forms of anesthesia.
- Nitrous Oxide – Commonly known as “laughing gas,” this anesthetic is inhaled through a mask that rests over the patient's nose, and can be given in small or larger doses. With nitrous oxide, the patient will feel relaxed, but will still be aware of what is happening. Nitrous Oxide, when used in combination with a local anesthetic, can provide a pain free and relaxed experience for patients having oral surgery.
- Conscious Sedation - With this method, the patient is given a sedative, but is still alert and awake for the procedure. Conscious Sedation can be administered orally by a liquid medication or pill, or given intravenously. Patients usually have some memory of the procedure, but feel comfortable and relaxed.
- General Anesthesia - Deep sedation or general anesthesia involves administering a medication that places the patient in a state of monitored and controlled unconsciousness. It is most often administered intravenously and the office will evaluate the patient continually while they are asleep. Specialized training and equipment is required to administer general anesthesia in a surgical office, so be sure to ask your doctor for credentials and find out how the office is set up for sedation.
The anesthetic plan that is most appropriate depends on the patient’s current medical condition, the type of surgical procedure, and the patient’s level of comfort with the procedure.
Your oral surgeon should offer a consultation prior to the surgical appointment. At this visit the doctor will obtain a comprehensive medical history, conduct an examination, and make recommendations about the procedure, anesthesia and recovery. Make sure to come with a list of questions, and don’t schedule your procedure until you feel comfortable that you have the answers you need.