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Dental Anesthesia What You Need To Know

Are you nervous about visiting the dentist because you’re afraid of having your teeth worked on? It’s time to put that fear behind you! Sedation dentistry is the solution for many people who are nervous about seeing their dentist. There are several types of sedation that can help make your dental experience more comfortable and less frightening.

Dental anesthesia – feared by many, especially at the dentist. But what exactly happens during treatment and what different variants & risks are there? In this article you will learn everything important.

Most of us have encountered one type of anesthesia or another during dental visits.

  • Anesthesia generally refers to the elimination of pain for a period of time. This is induced in a variety of ways.
  • Depending on the type of anesthesia, either only local anesthesia (the famous injection) or directly the central nervous system is “paralyzed” for a short time (general anesthesia).

This article is dedicated to both variants & goes into more detail about the procedure, the risks & the cost coverage by health insurance.

When is anesthesia necessary for dental treatment?

Often anesthesia is offered when the patient has panic fear of a small procedure or the treatment is larger – so would be associated with unbearable pain.

Even with children, the dentist likes to reach into the bag of tricks and use a cold spray to anesthetize the appropriate area & to pull a baby tooth.

anesthesia at the dentist

Unpleasant, but no longer a torture as in the Middle Ages: the visit to the dentist.

In any case, you will be explained in detail by your treating dentist – and of course, this guide on the Internet does not set the treatment by a professional. Please use the following sections for information only.

The different anesthesia variants

There are basically 2 different types of anesthesia: general and partial anesthesia.

General anesthesia

With general anesthesia, you are put into an artificial deep sleep and lose all feeling throughout your body.

  • But don’t worry. As soon as the procedure is over, sensation will slowly return.
  • This method is often chosen for larger and longer procedures. Many dentists also use this type of sedation for anxiety patients.

You will be given a combination of different medications here to ensure long-lasting and complete pain tolerance.

These drugs are used

Inhalation anesthetics, sedatives, and hypnotics cause you to lose consciousness. Pain medications, called analgesics (such as opioids or ketamine), are given to prevent you from feeling anything from the procedure or even from feeling pain. A muscle relaxant is usually then administered to help you relax.

Procedure & duration of general anesthesia

This cocktail of medications is given to you intravenously or else by mask. The duration of general anesthesia always depends on the type of procedure – it can last 30 minutes or several hours.

  • The “recovery” after the complete loss of consciousness also varies depending on the patient.
  • Some people can run a marathon an hour afterward and others are still doing modestly even the next day.

Partial anesthesia

Another option for anesthesia offers the less complex partial anesthesia. With local anesthesia, only sections of your mouth are numbed.

anesthetic injection at the dentist

Most often this is done by anesthetic injection.

  • So, with the help of a syringe, an anesthetic is injected directly into the tissue to be operated on. Already after a short time, the effect sets in and your mouth feels numb.
  • The contained drug provides a “nerve block” – calcium ions can no longer be released from the neurons and thus the stimulus transmission is stopped.

So for the time being, you no longer feel anything in this particular area. Unlike general anesthesia, they are fully conscious during this operation and could even “look over the shoulder” of the surgeon.

Low side effects & fast recovery

You save waking up and recovering after anesthesia and are right back to work. This type of anesthesia does not last as long and is suitable for small and short treatments such as root canals.

Cold spray

If the teeth are pulled in children, the dentist also likes to reach for the cold spray once in a while to take away the fear of the little ones and to make the tooth extraction as pleasant as possible. This type of anesthesia is called surface anesthesia. It is rarely used because: Spraying the tissue with ice for too long can cause the cells to die,which is irreversible.

Sedation with nitrous oxide

Sedating the patient with nitrous oxide also belongs to the category of anesthesia.

  • Hereby, a mask is placed on your mouth during the treatment, which releases a gas mixture consisting of oxygen and nitrogen.
  • Taken here you can not really talk about anesthesia, because with nitrous oxide is ultimately not the pain, but only the fear taken away from you.

After a short time you relax. This method is mainly used for very anxious patients.

The procedure of general anesthesia at the dentist

Once it is determined that you will receive anesthesia, the rest of the procedure depends first on the type of anesthesia.

Preparation & procedure of general anesthesia

For general anesthesia, you will be ordered to the dental office a few days before the procedure and will receive an extensive educational consultation with an anesthesiologist

general anesthesia dentist

When general anesthesia is used, there is usually more than one professional present.

General anesthesia may only be performed by an experienced medical professional. During this process, your general health (lab values, blood pressure, weight, age, previous illnesses, etc.) will be analyzed in order to minimize the risk.

Only if the anesthesiologist (a professional who specializes in anesthesia) feels that you could safely undergo general anesthesia, will you be scheduled for surgery and told when to be there on the day of surgery.

Appear for treatment sober

Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before. You must arrive at your dentist’s office completely sober.

  • Because if you were put under anesthesia with full stomach contents, you would be at risk of so-called aspiration.
  • In this case, stomach contents get into the lungs and cause pneumonia, which can be life-threatening.

Duration of general anesthesia at the dentist

The duration of general anesthesia is kept as short as possible, but varies from 20 minutes to several hours, depending on the procedure.

  • You will be asleep for the entire treatment period and will not feel anything. After the procedure, you will awaken slowly.
  • You will feel very dizzy at first, but usually regenerate quickly.

Most of the time, you will be given another analgesic after you wake up to relieve you of the pain for a while longer.

Procedure of partial anesthesia

Local anesthesia is administered by your dentist immediately before treatment. This is the preferred choice for minor outpatient procedures.

There are several options: the most common is by means of infiltration (anesthetic injection) or else by means of the ice spray mentioned earlier. After local anesthesia, you don’t have a long recovery period and can usually go straight home.

What are the risks of anesthesia?

Do I need to be concerned? What risks does the anesthesia pose to me? Can I do anything myself to reduce the risk? These are probably the questions most of us ask ourselves as soon as it is determined that we will receive anesthesia. But what is the real risk of anesthesia?

anesthesia dentist

Even before the anesthesia is administered, your dentist will explain the risks of the treatment to you.

The risks of general anesthesia

The type of anesthesia, the duration, the anesthetics used, gender, previous illnesses and age all play an important role here.

General anesthesia poses the greatest risks

  • Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, and postoperative chills.
  • Occasionally, involuntary muscle contractions (“muscle tremors”) may occur.
  • Rarely, dental, tracheal, as well as nerve damage occurs due to the ventilation tube.

Your dentist is obligated to inform you exactly about the risks and can furthermore still include your individual health condition in his recommendations. So trust the advice of your doctor.

The risks of partial anesthesia

Side effects occur very rarely with local anesthesia. These include: Drop in blood pressure, dizziness and nausea, muscle tremors, and allergic reactions.

To minimize your risk, do not consume alcohol or any type of drugs for at least 1 week prior to anesthesia. Always be honest when answering any questionnaires.

Your doctor is bound by professional secrecy and must not divulge anything anyway. After all, it’s about your health.

Honesty is especially important with illnesses & pregnant women

Disclose any pre-existing conditions and medications you are currently taking


If you have any infectious diseases, indicate this as well. If you are or may be pregnant, it is also important to tell your dentist so that he or she can choose the best form of treatment for you.

Do certain target groups need to be more careful?

In principle, you are at increased risk during pregnancy in general. However, your dentist will choose a different anesthetic (without epinephrine) for you to minimize the risk to you and your baby.

In any case, you should seek detailed advice from your treating dentist.

Narcosis in children

In children, we try to avoid anesthesia as much as possible, since little ones are also at increased risk. In any case, your dentist will keep the dosage of pediatric anesthesia low and keep it as short as possible.

The cost of anesthesia at the dentist

How much does general anesthesia cost?

Local anesthesia will be covered by your health insurance in pretty much all cases. Unfortunately, it’s not quite so simple with general anesthesia:

Your health insurance will only cover this in exceptional cases.

If the medical necessity is given and a simpler form of anesthesia is out of the question, you do not have to pay anything yourself.

In these cases, the health insurance pays for general anesthesia:

Exceptional cases include:

  • Patients who suffer from mental disability and therefore do not want to cooperate
  • Patients with severe movement disorders
  • Children under 12 years of age who have a panic fear of the procedure and therefore do not want to cooperate
  • Patients with dental phobia (“fear of the dentist”)
  • Patients with allergies to local anesthetics/ sedatives
  • Patients with special organic diseases (e.g., the local anesthetic is broken down too quickly by the body and therefore no longer works)
  • Patients who need to undergo a major surgical procedure that cannot be performed under local anesthesia

So if there is no medical necessity, there is no coverage. This is the case, for example, with the removal of all 4 wisdom teeth.

If general anesthesia is not absolutely necessary, you have to pay yourself

In this case, the teeth are usually not removed all at once, but spread over several sessions under local anesthesia.

dental treatment costs

So, if you want a general anesthesia in this case, you will have to pay for it yourself. This is then referred to as a “desired anesthesia.”

The specific costs of anesthesia:

Often, therefore, come in addition to the dental treatment also anesthesia costs on you. The price differences are very large here. Flat rate can not be determined the price.

As a small orientation:

Each additional half-hour $50-$70

Type of anesthesia Customary costs
1 hour of general anesthesia with an anesthesiologist $250

General anesthesia under medical supervision by a professional anesthesiologist costs around $250 per hour.

If the procedure lasts longer than an hour, another $50 – $70 per 30 minutes are added. So the cost depends on several factors.

Question your dentist

So it is best to find out in advance from your dentist about the costs and a possible cost absorption.

He can also tell you how long the procedure will take and what the approximate cost to you. In addition, he can also advise you on whether it would make sense to operate on several small points at once

Preventive care is the cheapest

To save yourself expensive & unpleasant treatments at the dentist you best on a daily preventive care with proper dental hygiene.

One of the most effective aids are electric devices such as sonic toothbrushes or electric toothbrushes from Oral-B.

Quite automatically, you clean very thoroughly with them, because these brushes do most of the work for you. Especially if you neglect the proper brushing technique by hand, such a device is guaranteed to pay off.

  • On this page you will also find numerous guides on the subject of healthy teeth.
  • From the right teeth whitening for a bright smile to the best electric toothbrushes in comparison.

Browse the linked articles and start improving your dental care today.