Anyone who has been to a dental procedure involving fillings, root canals, or crowns has more than likely received some form of anesthetic to reduce or eliminate the pain caused from exposing a nerve.

Today, dental advances in dental practice can greatly reduce, or even eliminate discomfort.

The following are some of the options for reducing or eliminating pain during a procedure.


Analgesics that are non-narcotic are the most commonly used drugs for relief of toothache or pain following dental treatment. This category includes aspirin, acetaminophen, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen. Narcotic analgesics, such as those with codeine, act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. They are used for more severe pain.

Local anesthesia

Often before a needle is administered to inject a pain killer, a patient may receive a topical (or "non-injected") anesthetic that is applied to the tissues of your gums and mouth with a swab to prevent pain on the surface level. This is often performed to numb an area in preparation for administering an injectable local anesthetic. Topical anesthetics are also sometimes used to ease the pain of mouth sores.

Injectable local anesthetics, such as Novocain, prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth during treatment by blocking the nerves that sense or transmit pain and numbing mouth tissues. These kinds of anesthetics are most often used in such procedures as filling cavities, preparing teeth for crowns, or treating gum disease.

Sedation and general anesthesia

Nitrous oxide, or other kinds of anti-anxiety agents are used as sedatives to help you relax during a dental procedure. Sometimes, these kinds of anesthetics are used in combination with local anesthetics. This type of "conscious sedation" helps the patient relax but still be capable of talking or responding to touch. Sedatives can be administered before, during or after dental procedures by mouth, inhalation or injection.

More complex treatments produce "deep sedation," which reduces consciousness in order to relieve both pain and anxiety. Sometimes, patients are administered "general anesthesia," in which drugs cause a temporary loss of consciousness. Deep sedation and general anesthesia may be recommended in certain procedures for children or others who have severe anxiety or who have difficulty controlling their movements.

Because of the nature of anesthetics and their sometimes-unique effect on patients, it is important to share your medical history with your dentist so that he knows of any potential reactions your body may have to anesthesia. This includes illnesses or health conditions, medications you are taking, and any allergic conditions you may have.