How is local anesthesia used in dental procedures?

Dr. Anita Gupta
When a dentist wants to numb part of your mouth for a procedure, they dry the part of your mouth with a cotton ball and swab the area with a gel to numb the skin. Then, they inject an anesthetic drug into your gum or cheek. The most commonly used local anesthetic drug is lidocaine, which lasts longer and is more effective than novocaine. The liquid in the injection not only causes numbing, but also narrows blood vessels (vasoconstriction) to make the numbness last longer. The liquid also contains sodium hydroxide and sodium chloride to make the drug infiltrate through the blood. The effects of the drug can last up to several hours, making it hard to talk and eat, but eventually wear off. There are many different procedures in dentistry that require local anesthesia. Some of these include: nerve block (blocks pain reception in an area of the mouth), palatal block (anesthetizes palate and maxillary teeth), intraosseous injection (given directly into the bone structure of the tooth), and intrapulpal injection (desensitizes tooth by being injected directly into pulp).
In dental procedures, topical anesthetics are applied to mouth tissues with a swab to prevent pain on the surface level. Your dentist may use a topical anesthetic to numb an area in preparation for administering an injectable local anesthetic. Topical anesthetics also may be used to soothe painful mouth sores.

Injectable local anesthetics prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth during treatment by blocking the nerves that sense or transmit pain and numbing mouth tissues. They cause the temporary numbness often referred to as a "fat lip" feeling. Injectable anesthetics may be used in such procedures as filling cavities, preparing teeth for crowns or treating periodontal (gum) disease.

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