Deep sedation is very similar to general anesthesia, but the level of unconsciousness is slightly less than general anesthesia.  The anesthesia used in dentistry is usually less invasive than that used medical anesthesia. General anesthesia:  Most commonly given by means of an injection or as an inhalant.  A patient is completely unconscious and cannot be awakened, even by painful stimulation.  The patient usually requires a breathing tube or mask because the nerves in the airway muscles are blocked. Deep Sedation:  A patient is mostly unconscious and cannot be easily awakened but can respond purposefully following painful and repeated stimulation.  Like general anesthetic, the patient often requires aid in breathing.

Depending on the level of sedation, most patients feel drowsy and have limited recollection of the procedure.   It’s known that all anesthetics interrupt the passage of signals along the nerves to the brain, but even now it’s still not clear exactly how it works. General anesthesia is essential for some surgical procedures, for instance, long operations or those that would otherwise be very painful, and where it may be safer or more comfortable for the patient to be unconscious.  It is determined on a case-by-case basis for some of these reasons:

  • High anxiety due to fear or low tolerance to pain
  • Allergy to local aesthetic
  • Local anesthetic is not effective in pain control
  • Complex or invasive dental procedures like face and jaw reconstruction
  • Dental procedures that would otherwise require multiple visits if performed without sedation
  • A choking sensation (exaggerated gag reflex)
  • Difficulty holding the mouth open for a lengthy time
  • Unable to remain still during the dental treatment (due to a mental or physical disability)
  • Medically compromised like heart or lung disease, or special health care requirements

After effects:  General anesthetics can affect your memory, concentration and reflexes for a day or two, so if you’re allowed to go home, you will need a responsible adult to stay with you for at least 24 hours after your procedure. You’ll also be advised to avoid driving, drinking alcohol and signing any legal documents for 24-48 hours. If you are interested in deep sedation / general anesthesia in Costa Rica, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.