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dentist puts inhalation sedative mask on his patient.

Surgery wouldn’t be possible without the miracle of anesthesia. Oral surgeons have a wide variety of options for preventing the patient from experiencing pain during their procedure. From local anesthetics that numb the nerve endings in a specific part of the mouth to general anesthesia that puts you safely and comfortably to sleep through the process, your surgeon can ensure that you remain comfortable while your surgery proceeds.

In this article, we’ll discuss a few things you should know about oral surgery anesthesia and what you can expect from the various types your surgeon may choose.

Dentist common operation of cleaning boy mouth.

There are 3 Main Types of Oral Surgery Anesthesia

Depending on the procedure you’ll be undergoing, your oral surgeon can choose from three main types of anesthesia to keep you comfortable. If you’re having a relatively minor surgery, such as an extraction or superficial work on your gums, you may only be given a local anesthetic to deaden the pain receptors in one specific part of your mouth. On the other hand, if you’re undergoing an intensive operation, you may be given a general anesthetic and put completely to sleep.

The three main categories of anesthesia are:

General Anesthesia

Anesthesia is the process of administering IV medications and/or gases that render the patient fully unconscious. If and only if you “go to sleep” during the procedure are you under anesthesia; otherwise, you’re being sedated or given anesthetic.


Typically used in conjunction with anesthetic, sedation covers a wide range of potential processes. During a procedure performed under sedation, you may remain awake and able to respond to requests from the surgeon but stay very relaxed. In other cases, you may be considerably more sedated and more or less asleep but not entirely unconscious.

Local Anesthetic

Local anesthetics deaden the nerves in a particular part of the body to prevent them from registering pain. If you’ve ever been given Novocain before a filling or tooth extraction, you’ve received a local anesthetic.

Oral Surgeons Are Required to Undergo Anesthesia Training

Unlike dentists, who typically only study anesthetics and sedation during their education, oral surgeons must undergo several months of training to administer general anesthesia properly. During this training, they’re taught to accurately dose the medications that cause anesthesia, properly monitor the vital signs of patients under anesthesia, and smoothly and safely bring patients into and out of consciousness.

In addition to their months learning the science of anesthesia during their initial training, oral surgeons must undergo regular refresher and recertification training to ensure they remain current on changes and advances in anesthesia best practices.

You Probably Won’t Remember What Happened Under Anesthesia

Even if your procedure only requires sedation, if your oral surgeon administers anything stronger than basic local anesthetics, you may not remember much or any of what happened.

Both common sedation agents and anesthesia agents typically have some impact on memory. You may have some fuzzy recollection of the events leading up to and immediately following the procedure, but these memories may be extremely hazy and dreamlike. This phenomenon is normal and isn’t anything to worry about.

You May Need a Ride Home After Your Oral Surgery Anesthesia

Depending on the level of anesthesia you’re given during your procedure, you may not be able to drive yourself home afterward. More intensive anesthesia will leave you with drowsiness, slowed reaction times, and impaired judgment for several hours after you wake up, so you’ll need to ensure that you have a friend, family member, cab, or rideshare available. In general:

  • If you’re only receiving a local anesthetic, you should be fine to drive afterward.
  • If you’re being sedated, talk to your surgeon. Mild sedation may not prevent you from driving, but heavier “twilight” sedation will require you to arrange for a ride home.
  • If you’re being placed under general anesthesia, you will not be able to drive yourself home.

Oral Surgery Anesthesia Has Some Common Side Effects

Overall, oral surgery anesthesia is very safe. Complications are rare, and fatal complications are almost unheard of, occurring in only three cases out of every million. Typically, the anesthesia is the least risky part of any oral surgery.

There are, however, some common side effects of anesthesia that you should be aware of. These are normal and should only be of concern if they persist for more than a day or two after your procedure:

  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting (If you’ve experienced this side effect after anesthesia before, talk to your oral surgeon before your procedure. They may be able to prescribe scopolamine, a patch placed behind your ear that reduces the sensation and severity of nausea.)
  • Confusion or amnesia
  • Slurred speech
  • Sore or dry throat
  • Numbness around the IV or injection site
  • Fatigue

Oral Surgery Anesthesia Dosages May Need to Be Higher For Redheads

No, seriously. The gene for red hair also tends to carry a higher sensitivity to pain. If you have naturally red hair and dye it, let your oral surgeon know. Researchers in one study found that people with red hair may need as much as 20% more anesthesia to obtain the same level of pain resistance as people with darker or blonde hair.

Athens Oral Surgery Is Your Local Oral Surgeon With More Than a Decade of Experience.

Dr. Tomlinson and his team are experienced in providing quality surgical care for issues ranging from dental procedures to lifesaving cancer surgeries. Schedule an appointment by calling 706-549-5033.

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