Your dentist wants you to be as comfortable as possible when you are undergoing treatment. As some dental procedures can be painful, modern dentists generally use sedation and/or anesthesia to make these procedures nearly painless.
If you have ever had a filling, root canal, or other dental procedure, your dentist may have inserted a syringe into your gum or inner cheek. This is known as a local anesthetic and prevents the nerves in that area from sending signals to your brain. Although you may still feel some movement and pressure, you shouldn’t feel any pain.
It typically takes just minutes for a patient to start losing feeling where a local anesthetic was given.
Learn more about dental local anesthesia and how it is used in the mouth during dental procedures.
What Do Dentists Use to Numb Your Mouth?
A local anesthetic is injected in the area of the mouth where numbness is needed. Articaine and epinephrine combination injections are commonly used by modern dentists for a wide range of procedures.
According to an article published in BMC Anesthesiology, ether was the first type of anesthesia ever used by dentists from 1846 into the mid-1990s. However, due to adverse side effects, ether was ultimately retired to allow for safer and more effective pain relievers to enter the industry.
Other numbing medications have been used over the decades, including Novocain, a brand name for procaine which was first created in 1905. While Novocain was effective, the drug caused allergic reactions in many patients. By the 1980s, most dentists no longer used Novocain.
In 1943, Lidocaine was invented and acted as a nerve blocker, similar to Novocain. When Lidocaine enters nerve cells, it prevents these cells from sending pain messages to each other. Lidocaine is commonly used today in restorative dental procedures.
How are Local Anesthetics Administered?
Before you undergo certain dental procedures, such as a tooth extraction or root canal, your dentist will numb the mouth. Your dentist may start by applying a dab of numbing gel to the area where the needle will be inserted. Once numb, your dentist will inject a syringe filled with an anesthetic into the gum or cheek near the affected tooth. The needle used for these injections is very thin and the procedure takes just moments to complete.
Local anesthesia is considered safe for most patients but side effects can occur, such as minor pain or tingling near the injection site, headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, or muscle twitching. Most patients who have a local anesthetic will continue to experience numbness for two to three hours. Your tongue and lips may continue to be numb for three to five hours after the injection.
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