There are three basic types of dental anesthesia commonly used:

  • Local
  • Conscious sedation
  • General anesthesia

Local anesthetic:  Commonly known as novocaine, has largely been replaced by lidocaine (also called xylocaine or lignocaine).  It’s the only type of anesthesia which, used by itself, numbs an area well enough to completely eliminate pain.  It is often combined with conscious sedation to further reduce your awareness and anxiety during the procedure.

Other local anesthetic agents in current use include:

  • Articaine (also called septocaine or ubistesin)
  • Bupivacaine (a long-acting anesthetic)
  • Mepivacaine

Depending on the situation, a combination of these may be used. Most agents come in two forms: with and without epinephrine (adrenaline) or other vasoconstrictors that allow the agent to last longer and also to control bleeding during procedures.

Besides types of anesthetic, there are various types of local anesthesia:

  • Nerve block: Blocks pain in one region of the mouth
  • Infiltration: Numbs only the end of the nerve branch which is supplying that single tooth.  Used in fillings, periodontal surgery, extractions, bone grafting, implant placement.
  • Palatal block: Injected into the hard palate to anesthetize the palate side of the maxillary teeth.
  • Intraosseous: Injected directly into the bone for procedures like root canals.
  • Intrapulpal: Injected directly into the tooth pulp to completely numb the tooth.
  • Pressure anesthesia: Topical numbing with a cotton swab prior to a local by needle.
  • Electrical nerve block: Using electric current to block pain, can be transient.
  • Acupuncture/acupressure: Alternative to drugs or electrical, rarely used.

Other types of anesthesia are nitrous oxide (laughing gas) by inhalation, IV or Conscious sedation (twilight sleep) intravenous, and General (unconscious) by inhalation and/or IV.  Nitrous oxide generates the effect of a dissociated and euphoric feeling in most cases, and is used most often for children.

For patients who are very anxious about dental procedures, IV sedation may be the perfect solution.  It is administered IV through a needle (just a tiny pin prick) in the back of your hand to make you feel like you are asleep, although you will actually remain conscious enough to follow the dentist’s instructions, but the feeling of relaxation is so profound that you are unlikely to remember much about the procedure.

General anesthesia, where the patient is entirely unconscious, is usually reserved for longer and more invasive procedures like maxillofacial surgery.

If you are interested in anesthesia in Costa Rica, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.