3 Things You Need to Know About Anesthesia and Oral Surgery

A young lady under anesthesia in a dental chair

Dental fear and dental anxiety are real things. In fact, they’re the main reason people avoid going to the dentist and neglect their oral care. Thankfully, anesthesia has been around for almost 200 years, and oral surgeons offer a variety of sedation options that eliminate pain and the memory of the surgery.

The goal of an excellent oral surgeon is to keep you safe and comfortable. And the expertise of an oral surgeon is far superior to that of dentists and other specialists when it comes to anesthesia administration. Here’s what you need to know about dental anesthesia.

#1 What type of anesthesia is used for oral surgery?

Anesthesia means lack or loss of sensation, and this can occur with or without consciousness. The type of anesthesia used in oral surgery depends on the effect you’d like to experience, your age, your health condition, the length of your procedure, and any reactions you’ve had to past anesthetics. The three main kinds of anesthesia are local, sedation, and general.

Local Anesthesia

If you’ve had a filling or stitches, you’ve probably experienced local anesthesia in which lidocaine, or another anesthetic, is used in the form of an injection to numb the surgical area. Lidocaine inhibits signals to the brain, preventing you from feeling any pain. You are fully awake for procedures using only lidocaine.


Sedation can be mild, moderate, or deep, and allows the patient to be fully conscious, semiconscious, or barely conscious. This higher level of anesthesia is effective in reducing anxiety, pain, and movement during the procedure. Sedation can be administered orally, through inhalation, or intravenously (IV). Nitrous oxide is a sweet-smelling gas that is mixed with oxygen and given through a mask that is placed over your nose. IV conscious sedation, also called twilight sedation, is administered through an IV line and induces a sleep-like state.

General Anesthesia/Deep Sedation

General Anesthesia, or deep sedation, is most often recommended by oral surgeons when performing invasive surgeries, such as complicated extractions. It is administered through an IV line, using a thin needle. Patients are kept asleep and comfortable and have no memory of the surgery. General anesthesia is very safe and effective.

#2 Can an oral surgeon administer anesthesia?

When it comes to skills in administering anesthesia, oral surgeons are as close to anesthesiologists as one can achieve. And they are much more qualified than dentists to administer anesthesia. Following dental school, oral surgeons complete four years of training in a hospital-based surgical residency program with medical residents. Oral surgeons are highly trained and certified to administer anesthesia, having worked many rotations with anesthesiologists in hospital settings for months at a time. Under close examination as students, they evaluate patients for anesthesia, deliver the anesthetic, and monitor post-anesthetic patients.

Oral surgeons are required to maintain continuing education in anesthesia and Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) on a regular basis, which keeps them current and fresh as they perform surgical procedures that require advanced levels of sedation. An oral surgeon’s extensive training includes patient evaluation, anesthesia technique, patient monitoring, and the appropriate depth of anesthetic.

#3 What are the benefits of anesthesia?

In addition to ensuring comfort, safety, and relaxation during and after your surgery, sedation allows oral surgeons to work uninterrupted, knowing that fear, pain, and anxiety have been alleviated. And that means you spend less time in surgery. Sedation simplifies invasive procedures. The benefits of anesthesia include the following:

  • As the anesthesia and its effects are monitored closely, so is your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure.
  • Oral surgery assistants offer additional aid, monitoring airways and helping to ensure the procedure is done efficiently.
  • Nose masks and IVs are minimally invasive.
  • There’s no pain or recollection of the surgery.

Dr. Sullivan is a Diplomate of the American Board of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery and a Fellow of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, the American Dental Society of Anesthesiology, and the National Board of Dental Anesthesiology. He has had many years of clinical and surgical experience along with extensive anesthesia training, allowing him to offer a variety of anesthetic techniques, including local anesthesia, nitrous oxide, intravenous sedation, and general anesthesia. When it comes to providing for your safety and comfort, Dr. Sullivan is unparalleled.

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