If you have had any dental work done before then you surely know about the numbing sensation that goes along with it. You know that foot-feel-asleep, pins and needles type of feeling? That’s the stuff that Novocaine dreams are made of. To say that most people find this to be a less than dreamy state would be true. In fact one question that we often hear is “How much longer is this anesthesia going to last”? To answer that, let’s talk about a few depending factors.
Typically you can expect the effects of the anesthetic to last anywhere from 1-2 hours after leaving the dental office, a few factors listed below can also contribute to the length of time that the anesthetic lasts. If you have an upcoming dental procedure, finding out the answers to these questions can help you to estimate how long you can expect your anesthetic effects to last.
How Much Anesthetic Was Given?
Different dental treatment protocols can require differing amounts of local anesthetic. For deeper cavity fillings and more extensive procedures such as tooth extractions, dental implant placement, or other oral surgery procedures; a larger quantity of anesthetic may be required which can increase the time your mouth is numb.
There are also individuals who have a fast metabolism and may also require several rounds of anesthetic throughout a dental procedure in order to maintain their dental anesthesia. In this situation it is possible for the numbness to last more than a few hours after the conclusion of the procedure due to the extra anesthetic given.
Another potential reason for the need for additional anesthetic is if the procedure involves treating a severely infected tooth such as for root canal treatment. Dental infections lead to an acidic environment in the mouth which can decrease the effectiveness of local anesthetic. This of course can lead to the need for higher amounts of Novocain needed.
What Type Of Anesthetic Was Given?
This may come as a surprise to you, but there are actually several types of anesthetic medication that can be used to numb your mouth. You likely only hear about the standard Novocaine, however there are over 5 different types of commonly used numbing agents. These varieties differ in metabolism, strengths, and duration.
Epinephrine is also an additional component that is added to dental anesthetic in order to prolong the effect of the anesthesia by constricting the blood vessel. For quick procedures and taking into account a patient's medical history and blood pressure, a dentist may choose to use anesthetic without epinephrine and therefore the sensation of numbness will be much shorter in duration.
How Much Of My Mouth Will Be Numb?
The area of your mouth that will be numb will depend on the type of procedure you have had done and where the treatment area is located. Keep in mind that typically a dentist first will place topical anesthetic at the injection site and this numbing gel can make your throat feel temporarily numb if it is swallowed.
Another factor that can determine the affected area of your mouth is what type of injection is given. For minor procedures an infiltration injection can be given which aim to only anesthetize a small area where treatment will take place. For more involved dental procedures a longer lasting block injection may be given which typically results in larger portions of the mouth feeling numb.
What About A Reversal Agent?
In recent years a product has been created which aims to reverse the numbing effects of anesthesia. This second reversal injection is an option at some dental practices so if this interests you be sure to ask your dental provider. Keep in mind that, as amazing as it will be to quickly resolve the numb feeling in your mouth once your dental work is completed, it does also mean getting an additional injection once treatment is completed.
Now that you have a rough idea of how long to expect dental anesthetic to last, let’s now talk about what TO DO while your mouth is numb to help you avoid any unwanted side effects.
Keep Your Mouth Still
One of the most common complications of dental anesthetic is when patients bite or suck on their lip or tongue while they are still numb. As you are numb, you will not feel yourself harming the skin on your lips or tongue leading to some pretty unfortunate mouth sores and swelling.
As mentioned above, you should try and keep your mouth as still as possible while you are numb to avoid chewing your lips or tongue. This means that it is advisable to not eat anything that would require chewing. If the hunger pains are beating down your door, try drinking something instead of eating any solid foods. If you are very careful, slurping ice cream may be a nice treat after completing your dental appointment.
Avoid Itching Or Scratching Your Face
As dental anesthetic starts to wear off you may notice the area of numbness feeling itchy and you may get the urge to scratch the area. Fight this urge as you can leave unsightly scratch marks all over your face from aggressive scratching while numb!
The best advice that I can give is that while you are waiting for that numbness to wear off go do something fun or interesting to distract yourself. The less you think about, the quicker it will feel like it wears off!
Dr. Mikaeya Kalantari has been a practicing pediatric dentist for over 7 years working in both the children's hospital setting and private practice. She has had a wealth of experience treating children of all ages, and medical conditions. When it comes to serving children, she feels the importance of communication between the dentist and parent can not be emphasized enough. Dr. Kalantari practices in her family owned dental office in Mission Viejo, California.