Many people only have a passing familiarity with anesthesia. While the goal of anesthesia remains the same, the modalities by which we achieve those goals have some significant variation.
Oral Conscious Sedation/Mild Sedation
This level of anesthesia is typically provided by your primary dental provider. It is generally a liquid or pill taken at or prior to arrival in the dental office. The aim of this level of anesthesia is to increase comfort and reduce dental anxiety while the patient remains fully awake and cooperative, though memory retention may be impaired.
IV Sedation/Moderate Sedation
This level of anesthesia is typically provided by a specialist dental provider, and generally involves the insertion of an IV catheter for delivery of medications during the dental care. Patients during this level of anesthesia may or may not be partially awake or conscious, require vital signs monitors, and typically will have accessory oxygen through a nasal cannula. This is often a great choice for teenagers or adults undergoing root canals, periodontal, or oral surgery procedures.
Full anesthesia/General Anesthesia
This level of anesthesia is always provided by a specialist provider, many times one who is not the surgeon performing the procedure. Similarly to Moderate Sedation, you will require an IV and monitors. During this level of anesthesia you will not remember anything during the procedure and will not be responsive to commands. You may or may not require advanced airways such as intubation. This is an excellent solution for pediatric patients who often have extensive and lengthy treatment needs.
Please click here for the American Dental Association's in-depth definitions of these levels of anesthesia.