While some patients wouldn't dream of having a filling without a good dose of a local anaesthetic, some people are less happy to be numbed. Some simply don't like the thought of anaesthesia; others are scared of the needles that inject the anaesthetic.
If you need a filling to deal with some decay, and you would prefer not to have a local injection, your dentist may agree to skip this step. When is this a viable option and when might your dentist insist on anaesthesia?
Small Amounts of Decay
Your dentist is more likely to agree not to use local anaesthetic if you've caught the decay early. If you don't have a lot of decay on the tooth or it isn't too deep-seated, then you can sometimes get away without an anaesthetic. In fact, dentists themselves sometimes recommend skipping anaesthesia for minor fillings because they can be done with minimum pain.
For example, your dentist may only need to do light surface drilling to clean out the decay and prepare the surface for a filling. This preparation work may not go deep enough in the tooth to make it hurt significantly, if at all.
Large Amounts of Decay
If your tooth needs major work, then your dentist is less likely to agree to proceed without local anaesthesia. If the dentist has to drill deep into the tooth for a long period of time, then they may touch the tooth's nerve. This hurts, sometimes a lot.
Your dentist may not be comfortable giving you a filling that they know will cause you pain. Dentists don't want to hurt their patients. It can also be harder to treat a patient who can't keep still because the drilling hurts. Your dentist may feel that you'll be better off with an anaesthetic.
Talk to your dentist about your concerns to see how they feel about working without local anaesthesia. If your issue with anaesthetic is needle-based, then your dentist will have ways to manage these anxieties.
For example, if you don't like the sensation of the needle and then the anaesthesia going into your gum, then your dentist can put a numbing gel on the entry spot first. If your gums are numb, then you won't feel the needle prick or the insertion of anaesthetic at all. Anaesthetic injection machines are also an option if your dentist uses one. These machines typically don't use needles to administer the anaesthetic.
For more information, contact your local general dentistry clinic.