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Is General Anesthesia Required For Dental Implants?

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Despite how common and relatively easy it is to get dental implants, this procedure still requires oral surgery, which means cosmetic dentists need to use methods to minimize patients' pain. General anesthesia is one common option, but it isn't the only one. Here are other pain-management alternatives that may be more appropriate for your situation.

Local Anesthesia

Local anesthesia is named such because the medication is designed to block pain signals at the application site. If you've ever used something like Anbesol to numb tooth pain, then you're already familiar with this class of drugs. However, the type of anesthetic the dentist will use is much more powerful and is typically injected directly into the part of the gums and jaw where he or she will be placing the implant.

Unlike the other anesthesia options, you'll be fully awake and aware during the entire procedure, which can be good or bad depending on your tolerance for discomfort. You won't feel any pain. On the other hand, you will feel what the dentist is doing in your mouth, which can be disconcerting.

However, local anesthesia has little to no side effects, as long as the dentist doesn't hit a nerve while administering the injection. It is also inexpensive, costing less than $500. For comparison, regional and general anesthesia costs between $500 and $3,500.

Be aware, though, that local anesthesia is generally only appropriate when you're only getting a single implant, because the dentist is restricted on the amount of anesthesia he or she can administer at one time. If you need to have multiple teeth replaced, you'll have to either get them done at separate times or use a different method of pain management.

Laughing Gas

Officially called nitrous oxide, laughing gas is an inhaled anesthetic that's often paired with local anesthesia, though it may be used alone when the dentist does light work on the gums. It is administered via a mask you must wear throughout the entire procedure, and the effects of the gas typically dissipate once the mask is removed. The gas does not put you to sleep but, instead, helps you stay relaxed while the dentist works on your mouth. You will still be able to speak and answer questions, but you won't always be aware of what's going on.

Laughing gas is typically used on patients who have anxiety issues or who may have difficulty staying calm during certain aspects of the procedure. For instance, the dentist may administer nitrous oxide before injecting local anesthesia in patients who have needle phobias.

Like local anesthesia, there are little to no side effects associated with the use of laughing gas. Rarely, patients may feel nauseated, and sometimes the gas doesn't have the intended effect. However, the effects of the gas wear off within 5 minutes, and you can safely drive yourself home afterwards.

This type of anesthesia costs between $25 and $200, depending on the dentist. This is in addition to the cost of any other type of anesthesia used.

Conscious Sedation

Conscious sedation describes the use of multiple medications to sedate a patient so they still maintain consciousness while simultaneously eliminating pain. This is similar to the combined use of nitrous oxide and local anesthesia. However, conscious sedation involves the use of oral, injected, or intravenous medications. You will remain conscious, but you may not be able to speak.

This option is used in cases where laughing gas doesn't work or when the patient needs something stronger to help him or her remain calm.

The biggest drawback to conscious sedation is that the drugs slow your breathing and lower your blood pressure. If you have a breathing condition, you may be required to wear an oxygen mask during the procedure. Additionally, it will take 1 to 2 hours for the effects of sedative to wear off. However, you should be okay to go home once you've recovered, though you may need someone to drive you.

The cost of conscious sedation varies widely and depends on the type of medications used. Oral sedation—where medication is taken orally—costs $225 to $300. Intravenous sedation costs much more because an anesthesiologist is typically required to oversee the process.

For more information about these sedation options or to schedule an appointment for dental implants, contact a cosmetic dentist.