Dental Health Topics

Local Anesthesia - Dental Procedure Code Description

This dental procedure code applies to the dental use of anesthetic drugs to prevent or lessen pain in areas where a dental procedure is to be completed. The application is referred to as “local” because its objective is to prevent the sensation of discomfort only at the location where the procedure is being performed and, as such, does not have a systemic effect on the body.
Anesthetic drugs work by acting as artificial disconnects from motor and sensory nerve transmission, effectively “tricking” the nerve into thinking nothing of consequence is being done in the area. While colloquially referred to as “novacain,” the drug Novocain is not commonly used in dentistry, and instead drugs such as lidocaine are more likely to be used during your dental procedures. 
A local anesthetic is typically administered via injection once a dentist has numbed the area with a topical numbing agent.  This additional layer of preventative medicine works to create a comfortable situation in which the stick from the needle itself isn't even felt.

Some dentists may also use a procedure called gate control in which they wiggle the side of the lip and cheek for a moment to get the nerves in the area to react. In doing so, the nerves are effectively too busy to react or re-fire again when the needle is injected. Combined with use and discard needles, which are ultra-sharp upon opening, most people will never even feel the anesthetic needle prior to procedures any longer.
Following the injection, the drug will work instantly at desensitizing the nerves surrounding and within the tooth, allowing your dentist to perform the scheduled procedures nearly right away.

Because of the complex makeup and deeper nerve roots in the lower jaw, numbing this area can be more difficult. If you have historically experienced a difficulty getting numb in your lower jaw, mention this to your dentist so they are aware they may need to take additional steps to anesthetize the area fully. The length of the anesthetic effects vary from patient to patient and are also dependent on the type of drug used as well as the amount used.  

To look up and find more CDT dental codes from the American Dental Association, please visit our complete Dental Procedure Code Library.