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The History of Local Anesthesia and Controlling Dental Pain

Historical Dentistry

Every dental office provides some method of controlling dental pain during your procedures, known as anesthetics. Anesthetics come in various forms, including pills, injectables, and gas, and are capable of providing meaningful pain relief as part of your treatment. Throughout the centuries, countless forms of anesthesia have been used as part of medical and dental care. Modern technology has led to effective methods that are refined and provide consistent results. We’re going to take a brief look at the history of anesthetics and their use in dental care.

The Evolution Of Pain-Free Dentistry

The earliest examples found of anesthetic use come from the time of Ancient Egypt. Since that time, anesthetics have been used in various forms worldwide. They’ve been used in dentistry to control pain from toothache to easing discomfort during a procedure. Alcohol, henbane, and opium are all forms of pain control that were used. These approaches were all effective to one degree or another. However, they often came with serious side effects or provided only mild pain relief. A boom in anesthetic technology occurred during the 18th and 19th centuries. Many of the developments of that era remain in use in one form or another today.

  • Nitrous Oxide – This gaseous substance, also known as laughing gas, is sweet in odor and completely colorless. It originally was thought to be an effective pain reliever, but that was later debunked. Its pain-relieving abilities are mild, but it is an excellent way of easing anxiety in patients. The ability to finely control its delivery and rapid recovery time make it an important part of modern dental practices.
  • Ether – This is a solvent that is often combined with waxes, resins, or gums. However, it was also used as a sedative for some time. While it could effectively numb pain, it also causes harm to the body when inhaled. These side effects were potentially dangerous, including unconsciousness, inebriation, and respiratory paralysis.
  • Cocaine – Now a common street drug, cocaine was once used as a medical pain killer. It was even available over the counter in cough syrups and other medications. Today this highly addictive drug is tightly regulated and no longer used for pain control as part of dental procedures. However, other opiates remain in use for short-term control of serious pain.

Numerous anesthetic options are available in modern dentistry. These include sedatives used to calm patients during procedures and local anesthetics that ease pain in a localized area. More involved procedures may make use of general anesthetics, especially when surgery is involved.

Speak To Your Dentist About Their Anesthetic Options

Every dental office will have its own selection of anesthetic options for its patients. Speak to your dental practitioner to find out what forms of anesthetic they offer. You may also inquire about sedation dentistry. This is a practice that involves soothing the patient during their treatment using nitrous oxide or oral sedatives. Call today to get a consultation on your dentist’s anesthetic options!

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Dr. Marian Bradford Dr. Marian Bradford brings over 20 years of experience as a Dr. of Dental Surgery to the practice at Premier Dental of South Orange County. As a researcher, educator, and clinician, she brings a full range of services to patients in the Aliso Viejo, CA area, including restoration and cosmetic dentistry care.
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