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That's a relief! How your dentist reduces pain.

Does the thought of visiting your dentist make you a little uneasy? If so, you’re not alone. At least half of all people feel anxious about going to the dentist.1 This is especially true for those who have a procedure coming up that could have some pain involved — such as filling a cavity or removing wisdom teeth.

Fortunately, dentists have a variety of ways to help ease pain and anxiety for both adults and children to make them feel more comfortable. The type of anesthesia and sedation used depends on the patient and the type and length of dental treatment needed.

Local anesthesia reduces or eliminates pain in the area where it’s applied. It is given as an injection. The anesthetic numbs the area where the dentist needs to do a procedure, such as extracting a tooth or filling a cavity. It usually takes effect within a few minutes and lasts for an hour or two. Topical anesthesia is often used before an injection and is applied directly in your mouth as a liquid, cream, ointment, gel or spray.


A sedative can be used when you need something beyond local anesthesia to help you relax and stay comfortable during a dental procedure.




Nitrous oxide

Sometimes known as “laughing gas,” nitrous oxide is a mild sedative used to ease pain and anxiety. It can be safely used with children and those who might have difficulty sitting through a dental procedure due to fear, a gag reflex or special health care needs. The gas is inhaled with a mask and can help you feel calmer and more comfortable within minutes.


Intravenous (IV) sedation

This fast-acting sedative is injected into your bloodstream. The level of sedation can range from minimal to deep, depending on the type and amount used. You may feel drowsy or even fall asleep during the procedure. IV sedation is often used for lengthier procedures, such as wisdom teeth removal or dental implant surgery, and is used more often with adults than children.


General anesthesia

Delivered by gas, intravenously or both, general anesthesia makes you unconscious and unaware of your surroundings. While general anesthesia is an option for lengthy dental procedures such as extracting difficult wisdom teeth, it is used much less frequently than milder forms of sedation in dental practices.



Administration of both IV sedation and general anesthesia requires special training and certification of the provider. You are closely monitored during the procedure to ensure your safety. After the procedure, your dentist may recommend either a prescription or an over-the-counter drug such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen to ease any discomfort.

Discuss pain-relief methods and any questions you may have with your dentist before a scheduled procedure for you or your child. You can also check whether it will be covered by your dental plan. Asking your dentist for a pre-treatment estimate can help you avoid unexpected charges.