iCliniq logo

Ask a Doctor Online Now

HomeHealth articleslocal anesthesiaWhat Is the Significance of Local Anesthesia in Dentistry?

Local Anesthetic Agents in Dentistry

Verified dataVerified data

5 min read


Nearly all dental surgical procedures are performed under local anesthesia. Read the article to know its composition, classification, and mechanism of action.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Infanteena Marily F.

Published At February 3, 2022
Reviewed AtAugust 1, 2023


In dentistry, local anesthetic (LA) agents have excellent efficacy and safety in dental practices, but they also have common indications, usage, and infrequent adverse effects. About 10 to 30 percent have anxiety regarding anesthetic and dental procedures, but the anesthetic method helps to ease the pain which occurs during the dental procedure.

What Is the Molecular Structure of a Local Anesthetic?

Local anesthesia is mainly or majorly definable as a loss of sensation in a circumscribed body area caused by a depression of excitation in nerve endings or an inhibition of the conduction process in peripheral nerves. Nerve conduction occurs by the inhibition of the influx of sodium ions. The local anesthetic agent primarily relies upon its molecular structure to interrupt temporarily for a specific period.

The local anesthetic molecule consists of three primary and pivotal components:

  1. Lipophilic Aromatic Component - It improves or enhances the lipid solubility of the compound for diffusion through the nerve sheath.

  2. Intermediate Ester or Amide Chain - It determines a pattern of molecular biotransformation.

  3. Terminal Amine - Its property is to make the molecules more water-soluble.

Each of these three components makes up the molecular structure of an anesthetic molecule by contributing distinct properties to the nature and mechanism of action.

What Is the Composition of Local Anesthesia Used in Dentistry?

The common composition of local anesthesia used in dentistry is:

  • Lignocaine is an anesthetic agent.

  • Adrenaline, which is a vasoconstrictor.

  • Methylparaben (agent).

  • Sodium metabisulphite, which acts as a fungicide.

  • Water.

Local anesthetics can be available and used as:

  • Injections.

  • In the form of gel or spray.

  • Topically applicable ointments, creams, patches, and liquids.

For simple procedures like dental scaling and cavity preparation in hypersensitive teeth or simple pediatric procedures, lidocaine gels and sprays are commonly used in dentistry. For surgical procedures like simple to complicated tooth extraction, gum surgeries, and placement of dental implants, and root canal procedures, the local anesthesia is injected through specific techniques based on the tooth involved, and the site of the injection is decided by the dental surgeon. The injection techniques can range from simple intraligamentary and infiltration blocks to nerve blocks like the maxillary posterior superior alveolar nerve block and the mandibular inferior alveolar nerve block.

What Are the Desirable Properties of Local Anesthetic Agents?

  • The agent should not irritate the local tissues to which it is applied.

  • It should not cause any permanent alteration or variation in the nerve structure.

  • The systemic toxicity of the LA agent should be low.

  • The time of onset of anesthesia should be preferably as short as possible.

  • The duration of action must be long enough to permit the completion of the surgical procedure but not exceed the length that may require an extended recovery period for the patient.

  • The LA agent should not produce allergic reactions.

  • It should be stable in solution and readily undergo biotransformation in our body.

How Are Local Anesthetics Classified?

Dental anesthetics are mainly grouped into esters and amides. Though usually used for injectable anesthetic drugs for dental surgical procedures, esters are no longer used; some practitioners use Benzocaine as an effective topical medication, especially for pain relief and to produce adequate numbness at the affected or inflamed site of the patient's oral cavity. In injectable anesthetic, the most commonly used remains Lidocaine 2 % solution. It can also be used as a topical anesthetic for the applicatory purpose at the site of painful oral lesions, sores, and affected areas to relieve pain efficiently.

The broad general classification of local anesthetics used in dentistry is given as below:

Based upon the molecular structure, local anesthetics are classified into:


  • Esters of benzoic acid:

    • Butacaine.

    • Cocaine.

    • Ethyl aminobenzoate (Benzocaine).

    • Hexylcaine.

    • Piperocaine.

  • Tetracaine ester of Para Aminobenzoic acid:

  • Chloroprocaine.

  • Procaine.

  • Propoxycaine.


  • Articaine.

  • Bupivacaine.

  • Dibucaine.

  • Etidocaine.

  • Lidocaine.

  • Mepivacaine.

  • Prilocaine.

  • Ropivacaine.


  • Centbucridine.

What Are the Contents of Local Anesthetics?

The main components that are present in a local anesthetic bottle are,

  • Local Anesthetic Agent - Lignocaine Hydrochloride 2 % (20 mg/ml):

The properties of a local anesthetic molecule have been elaborated as mentioned above. Its main function is to effectively inhibit nerve conduction for a specific period. For all dental surgical procedures, 2 % Lidocaine or Lignocaine hydrochloride is used commonly and widely preferred with other injectable anesthetics like Mepivacaine and Prilocaine (that are also preferred by some dental surgeons in terms of enhanced anesthetic performance over lignocaine.) In rare cases of patients with Lidocaine allergy, research establishes the use of Articaine anesthetic.

  • Vasoconstrictor - Adrenaline 1:80,000 (0.012 mg):

The vasoconstrictor function in the anesthetic solution is to decrease the flow of blood at the injected site to increase the local uptake of the anesthetic agent in and around that area and prevent toxicity. One more advantage is that bleeding is controlled at the administration site where the anesthesia is administered. The duration of action is crucial to an anesthetic agent's success during the surgical period; hence the vasoconstrictor plays a significant role by fulfilling multiple functions.

  • Reducing Agent - Sodium Metabisulphite (0.5 mg):

They act mainly as preservatives for vasoconstricting agents. The vasoconstrictor solution can become unstable by undergoing oxidation on exposure to sunlight. Sodium metabisulphite is a commonly used reducing agent that competes for the available oxygen and maintains the stability of the solution.

  • Isotonic Solution - Sodium Chloride or Ringer’s Solution (6 mg):

It is also known as the "vehicle" of the anesthetic solution. The discomfort at the injection site is reduced considerably because of the isotonicity of the vehicle solution.

  • Preservative - Methylparaben 0. 1 % (1 mg):

Xylotox and methylparaben are the constituents of the preservative agent that help maintain the stability of the anesthetic solution.

  • Nitrogen Bubble:

The nitrogen bubble aims to prevent contamination by oxygen from being trapped within the cartridge. If oxygen is trapped within the cartridge, then the action of the vasopressor is potentially threatened. The bubble is around one to two millimeters in diameter

  • Other Agents:

To adjust the pH, sodium hydroxide is used. Thymol is the commonly used fungicide agent, and distilled water is used as a diluting agent.

What Are the Side Effects Caused by Dental Local Anesthesia?

Usually side effects caused by the LA is based on the form of anesthesia used. General anesthesia has more risk factors compared to local anesthesia. Some common side effects are

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Headache.

  • Sweating or shivering.

  • Hallucination or confusion.

  • Slurred speech.

  • Dizziness.

  • Pain at the site of anesthetic injection.

  • Tiredness.

  • Numbness.

  • Trismus (difficulty in mouth opening) caused due to trauma from surgery.

  • Dry mouth.

  • Sore throat.


Local anesthesia is a very safe and commonly employed method before almost all dental surgical procedures. The dental surgeon must understand the mechanism and implications of local anesthetics for delivering standardized and quality patient care, especially for performing the procedure painlessly or with as little discomfort and pain as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Are the Different Local Anesthetics Used in Dentistry?

Local anesthetics are solutions injected adjacent to the nerves in the oral cavity to prevent pain sensations during a dental procedure. Some of the local anesthetics used in dentistry include:
- Lignocaine.
- Bupivacaine.
- Carbocaine.
- Mepivacaine.
- Polocaine.
- Prilocaine.
- Septocaine.
- Xylocaine.


What Are Some of the Commonly Used Local Anesthetics?

Local anesthetics are mainly used to numb an area of the body during treatment procedures or to relieve pain after surgery. Some of the commonly used local anesthetics in clinical practice include:
- Amino amide anesthetics such as Lidocaine, Mepivacaine, Bupivacaine, and Ropivacaine.
- Amino ester anesthetics include Cocaine, Procaine, Chloroprocaine, Benzocaine, and Tetracaine.


Which Is the Best Local Anesthetic in Dentistry?

Different anesthetic medications have recently been available to manage dental operative procedures effectively. Prevention and management of pain with a high level of anesthetic potency and low systemic toxicity can be achieved by administering four percent Articaine.


Which Local Anesthetic Agent Is Used for Extracting Tooth?

Lidocaine is the most commonly used anesthetic agent in tooth extraction due to its low rate of allergic reactions, quick onset of anesthetic effect, and long duration of action, making it very effective and preferred compared to other counterparts.


Which Was the First Local Anesthetic Used in Dental Practice?

Nitrous oxide and diethyl ether were the first used anesthetics in dental practice for painless surgery by Horace Wells and William T.G. Morton. Lignocaine was formulated in 1943 and marketed in 1948 and is the first local amide anesthetic agent used in dental practice.


Which Is the Strongest Local Anesthetic Agent?

Tetracaine is considered the most potent local anesthetic agent due to its high lipid solubility, moderate protein binding capacity, and long duration of action. It is considered to be more efficacious than cocaine. It gets quickly absorbed by the mucous membrane, and the onset of action is around two minutes, ranging from 20 minutes to one hour.


What Are the Different Classes of Local Anesthetics?

Local anesthetics are divided into amino amides and amino esters. An amide link between aminoamides' intermediate chain and the aromatic end is present. In contrast, an ester link is present between the intermediate chain and the aromatic end in amino esters.


Which Is the Popular Local Anesthetic Used for Oral Ulcers?

The most popular local anesthetics used for oral ulcers are lidocaine and benzocaine. It is available as a gel and must be applied to the affected area and allowed to remain for one to two minutes before spitting or rinsing it out.


Which Is the Most Commonly Used Dental Anesthetic Agent?

Lidocaine or lignocaine is the most commonly used anesthetic agent in dentistry; due to its safety and effectiveness. It is widely used and is considered the gold standard in oral local anesthetics.


Which Is the Safest Dental Anesthetic Agent?

Prilocaine is considered one of the safest anesthetic agents used in dentistry as it is less toxic and has a mild vasodilatory effect than other amide anesthetics. It also has a longer duration of action compared to other anesthetic drugs.


Which Local Anesthetic Agent Is Used by Dentists Instead of Lidocaine?

Bupivacaine can be used instead of lidocaine during dental procedures as it has a relatively long duration of action, which may be required during endodontic procedures or as postoperative pain management.


Which Kind of Anesthesia Is Used for Root Canal Treatment?

The type of local anesthesia used depends on the dentists, the duration of action required for the procedure, and the patient's systemic conditions. Two percent Lidocaine with 1:100000 Epinephrine is preferred during a root canal treatment. It is considered safe and has an immediate onset with a good duration of action required to complete the procedure.


What Is the Injection Used by Dentists Called?

Injections used by dentists to numb the area and prevent pain sensations during dental procedures or as postoperative pain management are called local anesthetic injections.


What Is the Site of Administration of Lidocaine?

The site of injection of local anesthetics is an important consideration during a dental procedure. Lidocaine is injected into the gums or inner cheek area, depending on the tooth, which is treated to numb the area and perform an invasive procedure that is painless and does not cause discomfort to the patient.
Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop



local anesthesialidocaine
Community Banner Mobile
By subscribing, I agree to iCliniq's Terms & Privacy Policy.

Source Article ArrowMost popular articles

Ask your health query to a doctor online


*guaranteed answer within 4 hours

Disclaimer: No content published on this website is intended to be a substitute for professional medical diagnosis, advice or treatment by a trained physician. Seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with questions you may have regarding your symptoms and medical condition for a complete medical diagnosis. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice because of something you have read on this website. Read our Editorial Process to know how we create content for health articles and queries.

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. iCliniq privacy policy