General Anesthesia Vs. Local Anesthetic: Which Is Better for Your Wisdom Teeth Removal?

June 16, 2021

oral surgery, wisdom teeth

People have to decide what kind of anesthetic to use when going under for their wisdom teeth pulled. There are a couple of pain management options when it comes to getting these very back molars removed. What you choose will be dependent on what your dentist offers and your personal circumstances. Consider some of the following when deciding if you would like local or general anesthesia for wisdom teeth removal.

The Difference Between General and Local Anesthetic

Some people do not even know that wisdom teeth can be pulled while you are awake. Many times, the cases are simple enough that using a local shot near the tooth itself is enough for Dr. Dhiraj Sharma to extract. This allows the patient to stay fully awake and understand any instructions. If the person and dentist feel that general anesthesia is better, you will be put under for the extraction. This is usually done with an IV.  For some patients, nitrous oxide might be used. This is oral sedation that helps with anxiety.

For the most part, the first step of the procedure is for the dentist to apply topical anesthesia to the gums. The patient becomes less sensitive to the needle used to administer the local anesthesia. Then, the sensitivity of the area is tested, which is followed by tooth removal.

Comfort Level

One factor that goes into which sedation to use is the patient’s comfort level. Discussing this thoroughly with the dentist is important. If it is going to be a short procedure, the least amount of sedation may work. If the person has a high level of anxiety and low pain tolerance, a general anesthetic may be necessary. The least amount of sedation to manage the patient is always preferred because it can maintain the patient’s ability to respond to the dentist while reducing their pain and anxiety.

Are the Wisdom Teeth Impacted?

Every wisdom tooth extraction is unique. Some procedures may take as little as a few minutes to get the tooth out, while other cases can take hours. If a wisdom tooth is impacted, this means that it is buried in bone. An impacted wisdom tooth can be completely bony, which means it is buried fully in bone. A partially bony wisdom tooth means that it is only buried partially. The tooth may also just have a bit of gum around it. The more bone involved in the extraction, the longer the procedure will take. Therefore, there is a higher chance of needing general anesthesia.

Your dentist should recommend complete X-rays to evaluate what needs to be done with your wisdom teeth. Dr. Sharma will evaluate the X-rays and then suggest either local or general anesthetic.

Pain Tolerance

Considering the patient’s pain tolerance will make a large difference in the kind of anesthetic to use. Even with that considered, having wisdom teeth removed while you are awake should not be painful. You will feel the injection, and it feels no different than any other shot. Generally speaking, you will deal more with fear and anxiety than actual pain. You may feel some pressure and pinching but minimal pain. Your pain tolerance should not be a concern, as your dentist will always use a local anesthetic if not a general one.


You may need to consider your budget when looking at general or local anesthetic for wisdom teeth extraction. Going under will be more expensive than a local, and your insurance may only cover local anesthetic. This is another area to thoroughly discuss with your dentist before the procedure. General anesthetic can increase the cost of removal by as much as 50%.

Difficulty Level of the Procedure

Taking into consideration how difficult the procedure is going to will be another factor in using general or local anesthesia. As mentioned, whether or not you have impacted wisdom teeth is one factor. That said, even if the tooth is not covered in bone, it could be a lengthy procedure. If this is the case, your dentist may recommend a general anesthetic. Considering whether or not the tooth will come out with simple forceps or in pieces will play a role in deciding what anesthetic to use. The more pieces the tooth is in, the longer the procedure will take.

Getting Wisdom Teeth Removed Without Going Under

Having the procedure done while you are awake can go smoothly. In fact, some patients can feel as though they slept through it despite the lack of general anesthetic. In some cases, it is safer because there are risks associated with general anesthesia. A local anesthetic can be much cheaper than general anesthesia as well. For the most part, the local anesthetic will keep the patient from feeling anything. Plus, they will be able to drive home after the procedure. Remember that the local anesthetic will still numb you thoroughly, so you don’t feel any pain during the removal.

Wisdom Teeth Removal While Under General Anesthetic

While many people are fine with the local anesthetic, a few need to have their wisdom teeth pulled while under general anesthesia. Those with low pain tolerance, high anxiety, or a previous bad experience may need to choose this option. Some patients struggle with the needle for local anesthesia. This may be resolved with oral sedation, but where it cannot, general anesthesia is the only option. With this anesthetic, patients will need someone to drive them home when done with the procedure.

One of the most important things to consider is a thorough discussion with Dr. Dhiraj Sharma. Ask all the questions you have, ask him to explain your X-ray, and discuss your options. If needed, let him know what areas of concern you have and what worries you the most. This communication can go a long way to making the entire procedure easier for you to process.

If you have more questions or would like to set up a consultation today, you can call our dentists in Lincoln Square today!


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