Seeing the dentist

Anaesthesia and sedation

Most dental procedures surround sensitive tissues in the tooth. This is why it is important to feel as relaxed as possible and use effective pain control when necessary.

Local anaesthetic

There are two types of anaesthetic that a dentist may provide you with. Local anaesthetic numbs a target area to prevent you from feeling pain in that area and allows you to remain conscious throughout the appointment.

The local anaesthetic works by targeting nerves and blocking them from sending pain signals to the brain. They are most commonly based on Lidocaine, or a related amide substance, such as Mepivicaine, Articaine or Prilocaine.

A local anaesthetic is most commonly administered by an injection, however it can be administered via a spray or drops. To make an injection more comfortable, a topical anaesthetic is applied to a small area of mucous membrane or gingiva. This works in the same way as the local anaesthetic.

General anaesthetic

General anaesthetic is required when local anaesthetic is not appropriate. In using general anaesthetic, you will be at total loss of all sensation and in a state of controlled sleep. You won’t remember anything from the procedure, which means the procedure can be carried out without causing you any pain or discomfort.

General anaesthetics are either inhaled or intravenous. For inhalation anaesthesia, the anaesthetic gases are administered through a tube connected to an anaesthetic machine. Intravenous anaesthetic is received via an injection.

Conscious sedation

Conscious sedation depresses the central nervous system sufficiently to make the dental treatment more acceptable. You are not unconscious, therefore allowing verbal communication to be maintained. Local anaesthetic is also required to numb the feeling of pain.

Conscious sedation can be administered in a number of ways. You may be required to take an oral sedative, in which a single dose will be taken one hour before treatment, or divided into three doses. Relative analgesia is achieved by inhaling the sedative and intravenous sedation can be achieved by the injection of sedative drugs.

The most effective sedation is administered via injection. The sedative will reduce anxiety, and you will have little memory of the procedure.


Regulations exist to determine how the medications are distributed. They are Legal Requirements of the Medicines Act 1986 and General Anaesthesia in Dentistry.