Anesthesia is administered prior to a procedure to help dull pain or sedate a nervous or anxious patient. The most common form is local anesthesia, meaning that it dulls pain in all or part of the mouth during dental work, but does not cause the patient to go to sleep. It usually wears off two to three hours after the procedure and is most often used when a patient is getting a filling or a root canal.
Some children or people with disabilities or severe anxiety may require conscious sedation. Nitrous oxide or laughing gas is often used, as are oral sedatives and oral injections.
On the occasion, patients undergo general anesthesia, in which drugs cause a temporary loss of consciousness. Deep sedation and general anesthesia may be recommended in certain procedures, such as wisdom teeth extraction, or for children or adults who have severe anxiety or difficulty controlling their movements.