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What you need to Know about Dental Numbness

Why does the dentist stick a needle in my gums? Why does my mouth feel numb? The answer to these questions involves dental anesthetic.

Some dental work (filling, crown, a root canal) requires a local anesthetic; a medication that is injected to numb the area being treated. The anesthetic stops your nerves from sending pain signals to your brain allowing you to be awake during the procedure without discomfort. 

Two kinds of dental injections:

A block injection numbs a large region such as one side of your mouth or your upper jaw. An infiltration injection numbs a small area, the location where the needle is inserted. That’s why sometimes your whole mouth feels “frozen” and sometimes only a small spot is numb. 

The steps of a dental injection:

Having a needle inserted in your mouth can be scary! Knowing what is happening can help reduce anxiety. The procedure for receiving dental anesthetic includes the following steps: 

  1. The dentist dries part of your mouth with air or cotton.
  2. A numbing gel is applied to the area where the needle will be inserted.
  3. The anesthetic is slowly injected causing a slight stinging sensation.
  4. Over the next 5 minutes, you begin to lose feeling in the area though you’ll feel pressure and movement. 
  5. After your treatment is complete, you slowly regain feeling – usually takes several hours.

Possible side effects of dental anesthetic:

Though dental anesthetic is very safe, there are mild side effects that may be experienced while the drug is wearing off. Watch for:

  • Tingling and minor pain at the injection site
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Twitching muscles
  • In rare instances, an allergic reaction that involve hives, tightness in the throat and swelling

Speeding up recovery:

Though dental anesthetic is meant to affect a small area of your mouth, occasionally it also numbs your lips, cheeks, and tongue making it difficult to smile, speak clearly or drink for a while after the procedure. There are a few simple ways to speed up the return of normal sensation.

  • Eat something soft and cold: gentle chewing increases blood flow reducing the duration of numbness – try ice cream!
  • Massage the area: increase blood flow by gently rubbing in small circles around the gums, jaw and mouth
  • Get active: movement raises your metabolism and speeds the return to normal sensation
  • Sleep it off: take a nap to take your mind off the numbness
  • Ask your dentist to give you OraVerse: a substance that reverses the effects of anesthetic – not recommended for children who are under 3 years old or weigh less than 33 lbs.  

Anesthetic can remain in your system for up to 24 hours. For a few hours after receiving dental anesthetic, refrain from operating heavy machinery, driving a car, watching children and making important decisions. It’s also wise to avoid alcohol for a least a day. These simple precautions reduce the possibility of experiencing difficulties due to the after effects of the anesthetic.

Dental anesthetics are a safe and effective way to provide comfort during dental procedures. However, receiving an injection can be scary and overwhelming. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the injection of anesthetics, talk to your dentist. 

For all your dental needs, questions, and concerns call Centennial Smiles at (587) 317‑7959.

New Patients: (587) 317‑7959
Existing Patients: (587) 353‑5060
Email: [email protected]

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