Though the majority of dental procedures can be performed without its use, general anesthesia has been an important part of the world of dentistry since the 1840s. That said, the general anesthesia that’s used in dentistry is typically less invasive than its use in the rest of the medical world; unlike with other types of surgery, oral surgery does not typically require the use of paralytic drugs and consequently can be administered without the additional use of an intubation tube that facilitates breathing.
There are also similarities between medical and dental general anesthesia — like its medical counterpart, the use of this anesthetic method in dentistry will render you totally unconscious and unable to feel pain during dental surgery.
In this unconscious state, there is also an absence of fear and anxiety; it’s for this last reason, in fact, that general anesthesia is sometimes used not only for complex dental treatment, but is also occasionally recommended for children and adults who experience acute dental anxiety
It’s important to remember that general anesthesia is not the name of the drug that’s being administered. Instead, general anesthesia differentiates itself from local anesthesia in that it numbs the body and puts the mind to sleep. Most commonly given by means of an injection or as an inhalant, general anesthesia describes a mixture of potent drugs that are used to induce a sleep-like state in those to whom it’s given.
If you’re planning to “go under,” keep in mind that the effects of general anesthesia may take several hours to wear off. Plan ahead: Dentists typically require a patient to arrange for a ride home and a few hours of aftercare following procedures in which general anesthesia is used. If you aren’t able to make appropriate ride-accommodations or don’t have a companion to stay with you at your home for a few hours following your surgical procedure, your dentist may recommend a longer stay at the office to ensure complete recuperation from the anesthetics used.