Dentist giving an injection of anesthesia to the female patient before dental treatment.
Young woman at dentist looking shocked getting shot of local anesthesia

We are all familiar with dental procedures that require parts of your mouth to be numbed so you won’t feel any pain from the procedure. There’s good reason to numb your jaw while the dentist is working on your teeth or gums. Your teeth are nourished by blood vessels and filled with nerves so that invasive procedures in and around these areas are going to cause pain. 

Types of Dental Anesthesia

The answer to avoiding pain during dental procedures for most of modern dentistry’s history has been to numb the area being treated. Numbing your jaw usually involves a shot of local anesthesia that is injected into your gum-line or inner cheek. For example, you may be given local anesthesia before having a tooth pulled or before the dentist drills to clean out a tooth cavity or prepare the surface for a crown. The injection deadens the nerve responses around the work area, so the patient feels no pain when the procedure begins. Local anesthetic lasts for about 90 minutes, so the patient may leave the dentist office before it fully wears off, temporarily making drinking, eating and sometimes talking hard to do.

Your dentist will likely apply a topical anesthetic first, a light paste applied to the gum or cheek surface that numbs it at the injection site. Then, the dentist will inject a local anesthetic with a needle to numb the surrounding jaw area, allowing it several minutes to take effect.

Novocaine or Lidocaine?

Years ago, the most commonly used shot anesthesia in dentistry was Novocaine. It was widely used because it works quickly and does not last too long. There were some common side effects that could occur with the use of Novocaine, such as pain around the injection site and a tingly feeling that lasts for more than a few hours. Unfortunately, for some people, there can be a serious allergic reaction when Novocaine is used, so most dentists abandoned it years ago in favor of Lidocaine. 

Lidocaine is used in dentistry as a numbing agent as well as a nerve block. Lidocaine can also be mixed with a small amount of epinephrine to reduce the risk of bleeding and help the numbing effect to last longer, making it ideal for more complicated procedures.

Another form of anesthetic that your dentist might use, either alone or with a local anesthetic, is nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide, often referred to as “laughing gas”, is used for its sedative properties. It is mixed with oxygen for the patient to inhale through a mask. Designed to help you relax, you will not go to sleep after inhaling nitrous oxide, and will be able to follow the directions of your dentist. While your limbs may feel heavy, you will feel calm and relaxed. The effects will wear off as soon as the mask is removed. 

Are There Alternatives to the “Shot” of Dental Anesthesia?

While the vast majority of patients have no problem with local anesthetic use, a few have minor side effects that can last for several hours. One of these side effects is hematoma if the injection site hits a blood vessel. You also can experience facial drooping which will rectify after the drug wears off. There is a small risk of more dangerous side effects, such as damage to a nerve. Allergies to some medications such as Novocaine can be severe and lead to symptoms like hives, irregular heartbeat, drowsiness, anxiety, vomiting, tremors, and seizures.  Tell your dentist if you have any drug allergies.

No Shot with Laser Dental Treatment

Young man receiving laser dental treatment at his dentist wearing protective glasses

Of course, many of us dread those injections. Sometimes it’s more the anticipation, knowing the shot is coming, that is painful. And, sometimes putting a needle in that sensitive area of the mouth really does hurt. Avoiding the “shot” even keeps some people away from the dentist. They end up foregoing important care and repair of cavities that can result in lost teeth, unattractive smiles and even long term health problems caused by dental decay, including respiratory infections, dementia and heart disease.

 Well, the good news is, for many procedures, the shot may no longer be necessary. For a growing number of dental procedures, such as cavity repair and teeth whitening, today’s dentists have more options than traditional anesthetics. One of these is the growing field of laser dentistry. Unlike traditional mechanical dental procedures, lasers focus only on the area that is being repaired and avoid damage and pain to surrounding areas that are not part of the procedure. This reduces the need for numbing a large section of the jaw.

In laser dentistry, a laser produces an exact beam of concentrated energy delivered right where the dentist needs it. It also provides the added benefit of sterilizing and coagulating the blood vessels at the same time, reducing your risk of infection. It can be used as both a cutting tool and a vaporizer that melts away tissue. You will be given glasses to protect your eyes and may or may not need an added anesthetic, depending on the complexity of your procedure along with your tolerance to pain. 

Other Advantage of Laser Dentistry

There are many pros to using laser dentistry for your dental procedures. With laser dentistry:

  • You won’t have to endure the sound of the drill.
  • You may not require local anesthesia or sedation.
  • Bleeding and swelling can be controlled when undergoing gum disease treatment.
  • Laser promotes the tooth’s natural ability to help heal deeper cavities. 
  • There is minimal post-operative discomfort.
  • You will have a shorter procedure time for fillings as the lasers are used for curing the filling as well. 

If you are looking for a quicker way to get your cavities filled, or take care of other dental treatments with minimal pain, minimal use of anesthetic and without the fear of the drill, ask about laser dentistry as an option. About 70% of dental cavity cases can be fixed with laser treatment, making it an ideal option for this common procedure. 

Las Vegas Laser Dentist Jesus Medina Jr DDS

Want to see if laser dentistry is right for you? Contact Dr. Jesus Medina Jr. DDS, an experienced Las Vegas laser dentistry practitioner today at 702-368-3627 to schedule your appointment.

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