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Types of Anesthesia

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons train extensively in the pursuit of their education and degrees, including training side-by-side with medical anesthesiologists, to offer a range of anesthesia options in their practices. Different procedures require individual levels of anesthesia, from local anesthesia to general anesthesia. Patients should learn about each of these types and discuss anesthesia options with their OMS before surgery.

Local Anesthesia

Local anesthetics are those that affect only a small portion of the body. They work locally to numb the area and ensure the patient doesn’t feel any pain. Lidocaine is a common numbing medication that is injected directly into the affected area and takes effect quickly.

Patients are conscious and aware during local anesthesia but should not feel any discomfort. It is typically used in simple tooth extractions.

Minimal Sedation

This method of anesthesia combines the localization of an anesthetic with the calming effects of nitrous oxide (also known as “laughing gas”). A mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen is This method of anesthesia combines local anesthesia with the calming effects of nitrous oxide (also known as “laughing gas”). A mixture of nitrous oxide and oxygen is breathed through a mask or nosepiece, allowing a patient to be aware during the procedure while remaining relaxed. This method also may include a sedative agent. Patients with anxiety about dental care might prefer this type of anesthesia for simple procedures. It also is an option for more involved procedures, such as placement of dental implants or removal of wisdom teeth.

Moderate Sedation

Sometimes referred to as “twilight sedation,” intravenous (IV) moderate sedation places a patient in a state between awake and asleep, drifting in and out of consciousness. Although patients are partially conscious, few remember anything from the procedure other than feeling sleepy and relaxed. Moderate sedation often can be used instead of minimal sedation for procedures such as removal of impacted wisdom teeth.

Moderate sedation may use the same types of medication as general anesthesia and generally leads to a quick recovery from sedation and a minimization of anesthesia side effects.

Deep Sedation

This level of sedation is a drug-induced depression of consciousness during which a patient cannot be easily aroused but can respond to repeated stimulation.

General Anesthesia

The combination of medications used to put patients to “sleep” before surgery or another medical procedure is called general anesthesia. Under this type of anesthesia, patients are completely unconscious, though they likely feel as if they are simply going to sleep. The key difference is the patient doesn’t respond to reflexes or pain signals.

Learn More from an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon

Ultimately, the OMS will determine the best anesthetic option for each patient as the types of anesthesia used can vary from person to person and procedure to procedure. It is important to find a local OMS to discuss options and potential anesthesia side effects.

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Last updated July 2021

The information provided here is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or dental advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is provided to help you communicate effectively when you seek the advice of your oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Photos and videos are for illustration purposes only and are not indicative to what a patient may experience.