Wisdom teeth removal: general vs. local anaesthesia

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Wisdom teeth removal: general vs. local anaesthesia
No one likes going to the dentist. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

The thought of surgery to remove wisdom teeth can be more painful than the actual procedure. Even after you discuss what will happen during surgery with your surgeon, the visions of painful incisions and tooth pulling can make you want to delay the needed procedure. However, your surgeon won't perform the surgery without giving you either a general or a local anaesthetic. Before the surgery, you and your surgeon will discuss your options.

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Local anaesthetic

Local anaesthetic medication is also called Novocaine. If you choose the local anaesthetic option, your surgeon will use this method to control pain. Thus, the gum area where the wisdom tooth will be removed is numbed. Your surgeon can deliver the pain control medication two ways, either by injecting the liquid in the gum or rubbing it directly on the surgical area and the surrounding tissues.

Benefits/drawbacks

The local anaesthesia option will not make you sleepy. So, an individual will be awake to see the wisdom tooth extraction. There will be no pain. However, you may feel pressure as the surgeon makes the extraction. In addition, your surgeon will not require any dietary restrictions.

General anaesthesia

With this option, your surgeon will instruct you not to eat or drink starting the night before the surgery. If you have any anxiety about the surgery or are having more than one wisdom tooth removed, then you may choose the general anaesthetic. This method can be inhaled or injected. Once injected, you will be completely unaware of what happens during the extraction.

Drawbacks/benefits

If you choose the general anaesthetic medication, a nurse anaesthetist or anaesthesiologist will administer the medication and monitor your vitals throughout the surgery. In addition to not consuming any drinks or food, there are three other requirements. You will have to wear comfortable clothing, be escorted by someone who will drive you home and can't wear contact lenses or jewellery. There can be complications from this medication. For instance, you may experience vomiting, an allergic reaction, nausea and infections after the procedure.

Nitrous oxide anaesthetic

You may be more familiar with the third option under a different name: "laughing gas." Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas with a sweet odour. It works quickly and can be reversed just as quickly. While the general anaesthetic option will interrupt the pain process, the nitrous oxide will decrease the pain perception. Also, it can cause short-term amnesia. However, there are no driving restrictions and you can eat a light meal at least two hours before the procedure.

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