Why Your Dentist Can’t Get You Numb

Why Your Dentist Can’t Get You Numb

Why Your Dentist Can't Get You Numb
©Tyler Olson/Shutterstock.com

Did you know that over four million dental injections are given every year in the United States?  The failure rate is estimated to be anywhere from 5 to 15%.  that means that there are anywhere from 200,000 to 600,000 dental injections that don’t get the patient numb.  That means that people get poked by their dentist with a needle and don’t end up getting numb about every minute.

Dentist Getting Patient NumbIt’s no wonder that a lot of people come into my dental school and tell me something similar to, “My dentist has trouble getting me numb –  I usually need a lot of novocaine in order to get numb.”  As a side note, we normally use lidocaine, not novocaine as many patients believe.

So why do so many dental anesthetic injections not work – why can’t your dentist get you numb?

Seven Reasons Why Your Dentist Can’t Get You Numb

An article published in the January 1991 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association sheds some insight into this issue by giving five reasons why dental injections sometimes don’t work.  I also found a couple of others and added them onto the list below.

1 – Anatomic Variations

Everyone is different.  Some people’s jaw flares out wider than others, making it hard to visualize where that person’s nerve is.  Some people have a longer jaw or extra muscle and/or fat around their jaw. In patients that are missing lots of teeth in the back of their mouth, it’s harder to visualize where the nerve is.  Also, young patients can have different anatomy depending on their stage of growth, making it hard to get the anesthetic in the right spot.

2 – Technical Errors by the Dentist

Dentists aren’t perfect!  Sometimes we can put the needle in the wrong place and give the anesthetic too low, too high, or too far to the side.  Also, we might not put the needle in deep enough, or we may accdentally deposit the anesthetic in a blood vessel, which is why your heart can beat fast when getting a dental injection.

3 – Anxious Patients

Some anxious patients may think that they aren’t numb and jerk away in fear when we start to drill.  In cases like this, I usually tap around their gums on the numb side and then on the side that isn’t numb to let them feel the difference and realize that they really are numb.

4 – Inflammation or Infection

When people have swelling in an area, it can be harder to get them numb.  One theory says that the acidic tissue makes it harder for the anesthetic to take effect.  Antoher theory says that since the patient has been in pain for so long, they have an increased sensitivity to pain which makes it harder for them to get numb.

5 – Defective Anesthetic Solutions

I haven’t had experience with this one, since my dental school has a pretty good quality control program to ensure that the dental anesthetic stays potent.  However, sometimes a dentist may use dental anesthetic that has expired or was improperly stored or manufactured.  This made me realize that I should always go with a respected brand name of dental anesthetic and not get the cheaper stuff to save money.  There’s no point in cutting corners if it will inconvenience my patients.

6 – Having Red Hair

People with red hair have more difficulty succumbing to the numbing effects of dental anesthetic.  They also have a greater fear of the dentist.

This article published in the July 2009 Journal of the American Dental Association states, “People with naturally red hair are resistant to subcutaneous local anesthetics and, therefore, may experience increased anxiety regarding dental care.”

7 – Having Joint Hypermobility

Those who suffer from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome can be insensitive to local anesthetics used in dentistry.  You can check out this article for more information on local anesthetic failure in those with joint hypermobility.

Conclusion

If your dentist can’t get you numb, more than likely there is a specific reason.  In my experience, I’ve found that there are many people who have slightly different anatomy in their jaws which makes it harder to position the needle so that the anesthetic gets deposited where their nerve is located.

Do you have any questions, questions, comments, or concerns about getting numb at the dentist?  If so, feel free to go ahead and leave a comment below.  Thanks for reading!

61 COMMENTS

  1. This is a very informative blog! I feel that it is very important to inform your patient of everything going on and why certain proccrdures or medications may or may not be effective. By helping them to understand it alleviates their fears because they understand what is going on.

    • Today I had a tooth that needed pulling. After 5 or 6 injections of novacaine and an hour of excruciating pain the dentist gave up and sent me to an oral surgeon. Due to the nitrous i couldn’t tell you how many injections he gave me, but he ended up drilling into my tooth and giving me an injection thru the root directly into the nerve… Holy cr*p, it was like an electric shock, and it still didn’t get numb. Pulled it anyway. Sheesh, at least the gas helped…

      he told me as I was leaving that I was a mystry to him!

      Any ideas?

      dean

      • I just had a back tooth removed and oh my god was it painful, the dentist could not numb me and i could tell was getting a bit fed up with me saying i could still feel pain! she said i have given you two files i can’t give you anymore but did inject right down again but still felt it the pain was terrible i am now frightened in case i have to have teeth removed in the future – i have always had a problem with getting numb – but dentist think i imagine the pain i know i don’t.

      • I had a lower molar extracted yesterday. I had about 5 or 6 injections and still felt the dental work. He ( oral surgeon) came at me with a drill before trying to loosen the tooth,..so I guess that is what he did (drill thru the tooth to inject to stuff directly to nerve??) Because I never had drilling done before trying to loosen teeth before. Anyways , I have an upset stomach today,…possibly from soo much novacaine or what ever it was????

      • One dentist pulled all my upper teeth without a issue, he was in and out. I went back to have the last 7 lower front teeth pulls by a different dentist in the same office. She took her time giving 3 rounds of shots because she claimed she wanted me nice and numb. When she started I tried to tell her I was not numb by raising my hand like I have been told to do in the past. Her assistant grabbed my arm holding it down telling me I did not want to hit her. ???? I was then told I was not in pain, it was all I my head. They held me down while she tried to pull my teeth. I was in so much pain I curled my legs up so hard and fast because this was the only part of my body I could move, I thought I was about to flip myself over the end of the chair taking everyone with me. By now the pain is so bad I am hyperventilating, I thought I was about to pass out! She had stopped a few times, told me she couldn’t work like this and I needed to stop. All the time I am trying to explain this is a nerve pain. After a long time of her insisting nothing is wrong she decides to stop and leaves the room for me to calm down. She comes back and pulls on the very spot/tooth I was telling her hurt so bad. She then tells me I have a hot tooth. She gives me 2 new shots one a mental block the other a nerve block. She lets them take affect and was able to pull my teeth with no pain. There is no reason for any person to put another human or animal for that matter thru something like that. I get mistakes can be made when giving the shots. But when told over and over there is heavy nerve pain the dentist needs to stop. That woman had it in her head I was faking the pain so she was not about to stop. As I walked out she had the nerve to tell me how great I did. There was no ways he could have sat thru that etc. like I had a choice in the matter.

  2. I need a lot of work done because I had mercury fillings which cracked because they are very old and I grind my teeth at night. I went to a dentist in Atlanta.Cleveland Ave. She gave me lidacaine instead of novocaine anyway I was in pain the entire time she removed my tooth and the chips. then she gave me water to rinse my mouth.the water was brown. I asked what is in the water. she said that is the way it comes out of the pipe. I saw her child in the other room and her husband at the desk up front. I asked if this is the water you give your family. she said she has some bottled water and asked if I wanted one. I paid that dentist 200.00 cash to treat me on that dreadful Saturday. I had to ask for a prescription for pain medication and I had to ask if I needed an antibiotic for any infection. she did not want to but finally gave me a pain medication prescription. I asked her how long she had been in business and she told me she had been in business a long time and has awards for her work. I do not see how that could be true. I would never send anyone, not even someone I did not get along with to that woman.

  3. I’ve been seeing my current dentist for several years and he has done two crowns and a filling or two with no problem. Recently he’s twice been unable to get one of my lower tooths numb. We waited 3 weeks after the first attemp, and second attempt went the same. My tongue would go numb, but my lip and tooth would not. In fact, the tooth actually seemed hypersensitive after the two shots. Touching the tooth with a dental pick made me alost jump out of the chair. The dentist sent mme home and about two hours later my lip finally went numb (like it norally does in the dentist’s office after the shot). The numbness lasted maybe 30-40 minutes…then went back to normal.

    Is there anything I can tell my dentist that might help me get me numb next time? He’s a great dentist and I know “it’s me” not “him”. This work, btw, is to replace an existing, old, filling….which tells me that at least at some point, some dentist years ago was able to get that tooth numb.

    • Tom, I am just reading the blogs on here now since i experienced the same thing you have just recently when going to the dentist. I had a tooth drilled a crown procedure. He couldn’t believe i was not numb, He gave me a second shot, that finally took. When i went today to have the permanent one put in, he gave me a shot and it didn’t take after 15 min, so he gave me a second one and that was barley enough. That was at 11:30-11:50 this morning, when i left there and started heading home I finally started getting numb, and that was around 1:00.

      Has anyone responded to you as to why that would happen?

  4. how can i make my dentist understand that my lower right back tooth WILL NOT geet numb my last dentist who was wonderful by the way tried three times but no luck i’ve had other extractions and there was no problem ……. my last dentist tried amoxicillian and ciproflaxin but no luck, then i stoped going to her because i moved and my new dentist didnt listen to my complications in the past with these two teeth when i told her she was like that was probaly becase you had an infection dont worry u dont have onr now there shouldnt be any problem …….but ther was and when i complained about the exscruiating pain she snaped at me that it wasnt pain just pressure .. um i know the difference between pain and presure i hae had several extractions before so the pain went on and i was only able to get out one tooth that day and on my way out she says”WELL AT LEAST YOU KNOW WHAT TO EXSPECT NEXT TIME” what should i do i dont have insurance and this is the only program that is literally free her in sanantonio im happy to get the free treatment but the pain was just horriable .

  5. You think you’ve got problems with your dentists; at least you can communicate with them.
    I live in mainland China and dental treatment here is awful, really awful. Today after a few days of intense toothache I gave in and decided to go to a local dentist. One of the big problems in China is that many people are against western medicine because (they say) it damages the body. The upshot of this is that (I believe) their lidocaine sits around for a long time in high temperatures and maybe past it’s sell-by-date. Then an unsuspecting foreigners turn up for treatment and asks for an injection of bad lidocaine.
    I myself have always had a problem with my nerves not getting numb prior to drilling and this occasion was no different. Even after four shots I could still feel pretty bad pain. Now if you add to this the fact that dental practices here are very bizarre in as much that they drill your tooth, then insert cotton wool with some kind of Chinese medicine on it and tell you to go away until tomorrow. What this means is that you have a big hole in your tooth with exposed nerves and a big lump of cotton wool. Imagine the problems this creates in trying to drink or eat, and this can go on for several days. I am sure my little story has put your problems into context!
    Incidentally I am a UK man who teaches English here.

  6. Hi,

    I am resistant to numbing for some reason. I’ve found a local dentist however who is AMAZING, truly pain-free. First he uses a q-tip and numbs the area where the injection is about to go. The injection is barely felt, and then a 2nd injection usually follows in my case, a few moments later. THEN, he gives me a “booster”, which after all these visits, has finally told me that he’s actually drilling into the bone a bit, and making an injection straight into the bone. It turns the side of my mouth into a block of wood, and I feel practically nothing that is going on in my mouth while he’s working.

    He said most dentists will not do this procedure though, even though he has had several sessions where he teaches other dentists the technique.

    Why isn’t this “booster” done more often? It is truly the best thing that has happened to me, with regards to my dental care.

    • Hi Michael – I do sometimes use a similar injection where I numb the patient around the tooth to be worked on and then inject into the ligament between the tooth and the bone, which allows the anesthetic to diffuse directly into the bone.

      I think many dentists (myself included) are hesitant to drill into someones bone simply to get them numb, which I believe explains why more dentists aren’t doing that type of injection.

      Like any injection we give, there are some risks to this injection that goes in your bone. Here’s a quote from a study that discusses this type of injection:

      “The risks factors associated with intraosseous injections include separation of the perforator needle from the plastic shank and that localized infection can occur at the site of perforation and may require use of oral antibiotics. The most significant concern with this route is increased heart rate that occurs when using epinephrine and levonordefrin containing solutions.”

      Thanks for the question – Sounds like a good post idea someday!

      • Wow, thanks for the great response!

        Your reply was interesting to me, “simply to get them numb”. I am definitely looking for your feedback here, trying to understand- wouldn’t numbing the patient be high priority when doing work in their mouth?

        My first dental experiences as a child with military dentists were not great, and when I had to have a wisdom tooth pulled in my 20’s (about 20 years ago) it was a brutal, painful affair. In this day and age I would say barbaric even. It was about a year later when another tooth had to go, that I found the current guy.

        My dad has neglected at least 10 years of dental care, simply because he dreads the pain and discomfort of dental work.

        Is there a level of pain in the patient’s part that is considered acceptable by dentists?

        • Hi Michael – I probably wasn’t very clear with my last post. Numbing a patient is an extremely high priority. In fact, I always want my patient to be comfortable and will not work on them unless they are.

          In response to your question, there isn’t a level of pain on the patient’s part that is considered acceptable to me. If I sense that the patient can feel something, I ask them and then let them know that I’d like to give them some more anesthetic so that they are comfortable. Using the standard dental injections, I am usually successful at getting patients numb. When that fails, I will usually go to the injection in the ligament, which gets the remainder of the patients numb. That injection is basically an injection into the bone, without having to drill directly into the bone.

          With the injection techniques I’m using, I am able to get my patients numb and so I haven’t felt the need to learn the technique where I would drill into the bone just to get a patient numb. Bear in mind that many dentists only do standard injections and do not have the equipment to do an injection into the ligament around the tooth. This may be where your bad experiences have come from.

          Ask your dentist if he’s willing to give you a PDL injection in your ligament next time and see if that works just as well as the injection where he has to drill into your bone. Both injections deposit the anesthetic into the bone around the tooth. Both can cause some residual pain after the numbing wears off. But only one of them involves directly drilling into your bone.

          Unfortunately there are dentists out there who don’t place a high priority on patient comfort. I think most of us do try to make sure that our patients are as comfortable as possible when working on them.

          Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks for your insightful comment!

          • I am curious what you think about a Dentist who does not numb the gums or make prior small injections but goes in with one shot to the nerve for the extraction of a molar. Is this acceptable? The pain was extreme, to the point that my leg went up and bruised on the table and I slid down and he just kept driving it in. I was a brand new patient and am scared to death to go back now. I have had plenty of dental work in my life and am a good patient, but I was screaming and then even cried afterward like a baby. Worst part is the old root canal tooth was so loose it was about to fall out on it’s own! I appreciate your honest input.

  7. I am on a seizure medication where it is literally eating my enamel and causing me to get cavities even though I brush twice daily and take great care of my teeth. ( This is my first time ever having any major work done on my teeth.)

    Recently I had to have fillings. The first time I had 2 fillings and a wisdom tooth pulled which took 5 injections and I was numb for 6 hours. The second time I had 2 more fillings and the first injection didn’t numb me and my dentist stuck me 3 more times and I was numb for 4 hours. The last time that I went ( today) he stuck me twice and waited 15 minutes and I wasn’t numb, then he came back and had 2 different vials one yellow and one blue and I was stuck 9 more times and I still wasn’t numb. The pain was very unbearable and I had to more or less bare the pain and he drilled 3 of my teeth and I am due next week for a filling and a crown. After I left the dental office my toungue was completely numb on one side and a small part of my bottom lip was too. It lasted about 20 – 30 minutes.

    Is there a reason why I am not really getting numb and is there something that I could let my dentist know or having him try to make this a lot easier on me. I am literally petrified to go back for the rest of my dental work due to the pain. Not to mention I was referred to an Oral Surgeon to have 3 wisdom teeth extracted.

    • Hi Kayla – I would tell your dentist your concerns. There are other injections that can be done that will get individual teeth numb. You could ask your dentist to do a PDL injection (where the anesthetic is placed directly into the Periodontal Ligament right around the tooth and gets it numb). I’m sure your dentist doesn’t want you to be uncomfortable and will help you find a good solution. Good luck!

  8. Hi Tom
    I too have the problem with my lower jaw not numbing, despite dentists telling me that my previous dentists ‘couldn’t have known what they were doing’!
    Everything goes numb, but the pain is horrendous.

    My first experience, about 40 years ago, was when having my wisdom teeth out (which had not completely come through), at the London dental hospital, in the chair. Several of the team couldn’t understand why, after several attempts and told me that I couldn’t possibly feel any pain. When I got home, I was bleeding profusely.

    I did have a dentist once who told me that although this problem is ‘not in the dental bible’, he did believe me as he had a few similar patients. He gave me an injection and something else as well, which worked!
    He wrote it down for me, but after years of moving house, I mislaid his note and now can’t remember who he was, except he was brilliant, but I have been unable to convey this to dentists since.
    Even my current hygienist can’t understand it.

    Do you know what this might be as I continue to suffer with the problem.
    Several years ago I was given a general anaesthetic to have teeth removed and was told that I have ‘an abnormally low jaw’.

    Please please help me and how to explain to my dentist.
    Thank you

  9. Two dental concerns: It seems to take me at least 30 mins. to get numb for a procedure. The dentist keeps coming back and checking but nothing is happening. I feel like he gets frustrated with me, although the hygienist has assured me that they have a “few”, not many, other patients that have the same experience (some get the shot, then go out and run an errand, and come back). This past week, he repeated the injection four times over a period of 45 mins. before I was actually numb. I’m not a wimp, so I am not sure what is happening. The second issue is that if I have had my mouth open for a long time, my jaw starts to quiver uncontrollably, making it really hard for him to work. This last visit I could sense that my jaw was “on the verge”, so when he asked me to open my mouth wider, I didn’t, because I know that’s a “trigger”. The first chance I had to speak I told him why I had not “obeyed”…I think of the two options, a less wide mouth or a quivery jaw, he would rather have the first. If the hygienist were not there to assure me that it’s not my fault and I’m not the only one, I’m not sure what I’d do. I want to be a “good

  10. Two dental concerns: It seems to take me at least 30 mins. to get numb for a procedure. The dentist keeps coming back and checking but nothing is happening. I feel like he gets frustrated with me, although the hygienist has assured me that they have a “few”, not many, other patients that have the same experience (some get the shot, then go out and run an errand, and come back). This past week, he repeated the injection four times over a period of 45 mins. before I was actually numb. I’m not a wimp, so I am not sure what is happening. The second issue is that if I have had my mouth open for a long time, my jaw starts to quiver uncontrollably, making it really hard for him to work. This last visit I could sense that my jaw was “on the verge”, so when he asked me to open my mouth wider, I didn’t, because I know that’s a “trigger”. The first chance I had to speak I told him why I had not “obeyed”…I think of the two options, a less wide mouth or a quivery jaw, he would rather have the first. If the hygienist were not there to assure me that it’s not my fault and I’m not the only one, I’m not sure what I’d do. I want to be a “good patient”…I just don’t know how.

  11. My mom doesn’t think this website is worth looking at but I want to prove her wrong .
    Beside that fact I wanted to know , how many times a day should I floss . And/or weeks.
    Thanks so much !

    Simcerely, Qiara Manson

  12. Hi Tom,
    seem to having problems that no ne can answer, went for tooth extraction lower right, multiple injections 4 or 5 Dentist unable to numb, went home, placed on antibiotics although NO infection. Next visit area hypersensitive again multiple injections, extraction took place however for the next 7 weeks gum around area [tongue side] hyper-hypersensitive to touch and much pain. Seen again after these 7 weeks due to no relief, socket almost closed however, no relief, same hypersensitivity however, I believed in time it would settle, its now been 7 MONTHS area still sensitive right cheek has numb area including corner of mouth slight difference in feeling now also I dribble saliva. Dentist believes it will settle in time, don’t think so. my belief is the first attempt to extract tooth through numbing [4x times] hit main Inferior alveolar nerve leading to trigeminal sensory nerve injury, would appreciate your view, especially, will this settle in time, for its causing me all kinds of concern especially the dribbling. Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Derek – Your symptoms sound like they could be a nerve injury. If it was from the first visit, you likely would’ve been numb following that visit before the tooth was removed. Many times these do settle down after several months. Have you felt any improvement?

  13. Hi Tom, first thank you for responding. No improvement almost 8 months still dribble slightly from corner of right side of lip, seeing Dentist specialist on Friday but believe they are ‘circling the wagons’. The gum [tongue side] around and either side of extraction site still hypersensitive and pocket numbness on cheek which I hadn’t realised, a dentist found, [boss of dentist that did initial attempt to remove tooth.] This hypersensitivity, cheek numbness and dribbling is starting to concern me, if this is nerve damage will it heal? For what I have been told the answer is no, and that of great concern especially the dribbling. Thanks.

  14. Hi Tom the dentist,
    Am 31yrs old. I have always brushed, flossed. But for some reason, the older I get it seems like my teeth are just going down hill. I don’t drink, never used or even tried any type of street drugs, and my teeth are starting to chip really easy. I noticed a pin size hole in the back of my tooth! My mid bottom tooth looks like it wants to split in half. I don’t go to my dentist as I am supposed to. I was given a numbing inj over 12x’s and still felt everything. Is there anything you can suggest to help build some type of strength into these teeth. Please and thank you.

  15. I was curious I was told I was given booster but did not drill into bone??? . I am very hard to numb. I am now traumatized as dentist kept drilling when unnumb as kid luckily found dentist that said I had issues numbing. I suddenly went to 11 cavity in over year time . I forgot to tell oral surgon that when I had 5 impacted wisdom teeth. I had extra Wisdom lol. But I forgot tell him as I had massive infection was told come first thing next morning as I did not respond antibiotics due to infection lost 3 other bottom teeth at same time. I woke up screaming in pain…

    Let’s say I made sure to let Dr know when I had my top teeth removed as multiple fillings in same teeth. Thought was dentist.So try 3 total dentist and cavity kept coming back in same teeth. Why would cause that.

    As I am afraid my bottom teeth might just go down hill like my top teeth done. I was trying save my teeth so bad my dentist told me I had stop brushing my teeth so hard as I was espousing the nerve due to trying save my top teeth done no good even when brushed not as hard. I to have realised more ppl with autoimmune diseases loss their teeth why is that 1/3 of my dentures board have autoimmune deiases…

    To why are so many in their 20s need dentures as at least 20percent of group I am in to are under 28 that need denture…

    To why deside look up numbing issues as seen friend post on fb she had 2 teeth filled unnumb. I don’t know if she told her Dr go ahead or not. But why would dentist do that. In less their awful dentist as I had bad dentist as child that done that several times. It has me traumatized to this day…

  16. I have an AMAZING dentist that I see here in washington state. Ive always been fearful of the dentist but she has been so amazing and gentle with me. Im hard to numb on some visits so usually she hasto give me injections directly around my tooth after im already numbed with the initial injections so that its more comfortable for me to recieve those. After that I dont feel anything. My dentist listens to my every concern and if I say there is even slight pain, shes on it. I wish more dentists were like her, especially for people like me who have dental anxiety and are hard to get numb.

    • Does anyone want help or are you just venting? I am thinking this is not a place to get answers, since this was written by a dentist and 1) they cannot diagnose over the internet and 2) this isn’t a place for free dental care.
      Paul, I am posting this under your comment also for a third reason. Please NEVER say “at least you have so and so, I am clearly in more pain/frustration etc than all of you!!”. As a woman who has a chronic illness that causes daily pain, even I know to never downplay what another human being is experiencing!
      Big deal they can communicate and you can’t, does that make them suddenly not hurt? No. Does it invalidate their experience? Nope.
      Your “little story” did not provide any “context” for them! It just makes me wonder why you, a “UK man”, which I have to assume means you are male and from the United Kingdom, continue to live in a place where you cannot communicate with your dentist. It also makes me wonder why you teach English in a country where you don’t understand the native language. You do not matter more OR less than others.
      I highly recommend that, if you need dental work, you find an English-speaking dentist. It really is unkind and potentially dangerous to tell them “what you are or have experienced isn’t important”.

    • Where at in Washington? I am in Spokane and I’m having difficulty with a lower molar that well not to get numb enough to pull. The dentist tried Toonami on two different visits and I felt she gave up too quickly because she just referred me to an oral surgeon. Who of course is not accepting new patients, and neither is anyone else that I called plus I’m 8 months pregnant so I’m in a pickle

  17. This may be a stupid question, but is “Novocaine” (or whichever local anesthetic is used) supposed to make you completely numb? I thought it was just to numb the pain. When I got my cavities filled, I distinctly felt the pressure and vibration of the drill through my teeth. It was uncomfortable, but I didn’t feel any pain until a couple hours later when the anesthetic wore off.

  18. Is it possible that certain vitamins and herbal supplements or even caffeine can lessen the effects of the lidocaine/anesthesia? I was at the dentist this morning and I normally have no problem getting numb, but she had to stop drilling three times to give me more and finally we just had to give up. She asked if I’d taken any supplements today or had caffeine and I had no caffeine, but I did take some herbal detox pills and drink mix along with some fish oil and 5-htp and a ginseng based energy booster. She said they recommend stopping supplements 1-2 days before a filling because they often interfere with anesthesia. Do you have any information on this?

  19. the dentist i saw today says i have to first take an antibiotic for a week before he can numb me. He said the infection will make it hard to anestheize. i have never heard of that one. I was looking forward to him taking out my tooth and now i have to wait a week

    • I bet now that you’re probably through that, you are VERY glad you have a wise dentist who made sure there was no infection! A week is not long, especially if it is in the best interest of your health. Why ask here and not your dentist? I have been dealing with one who cuts me off when I speak, has out and out said “What you just said is not true” (always nice to be called a liar by someone holding a drill over your mouth).
      Since you wrote a few months ago, how did it go? Was I right about the level of concern and care you received?

  20. I’ve had trouble getting numb before on one occasion but thankfully I got through the filling. The dentist called it a hot tooth. I kept pinching my hand really hard to distract from the pain. I’ve found if I breathe and try to relax in the waiting room the anesthetic seems to work.

    I did have one of my upper teeth at the back extracted as it had cracked but now after several months I cannot bite down on the tooth next to it as it is quite sensitive. Could the nerve have been damaged somewhere when the dentist pulled the cracked tooth?

  21. Today I have appointment with my dr for root canal-. Some days before he gave me some antibiotics. Today is my condition were worst bx now I am feel hit and cold . so today he start up with needle to freez my teeth. After 3 , 4 minutes instead my mouth get anything my neck gettting stress and my left shouldrr getting heavy . Even my heart beat sone thing wrong with it. I ask for water . I drink some water and walk around. Injection did not impact anything inside my mouth but it impact on my shoulder .its still too heavy after 4 hours . and i feel like i dont have power in my lef arm . Iam just worried is that everything normal. Bx he send me home he dont want to do anything . I am getting nervous. He looks worried too.

  22. Dear Tom et al, I am recovering from Bell’s Palsy and I need to have a crown fitted onto one of my front teeth. What are the pros and cons of not having local anaesthetics when the dentist is fitting my crown? I am trying to avoid any interference or blockage on my facial nerve recovery. Is it better to have or not have local anaesthetics in my condition?

  23. I had to have sone dental work done anc my dentist had trouble getting me numb to the poi t she gave me the maximum amout of lidocane my jaw and everything was numb but the tooth as soon as she started to use the elivator i could feel instant pain now take it i was numb but for some reasob the tooth its self wasnt so my question is would nitrous eliviate that problom and make it so i would feel anything or should i consider iv sedation

  24. Having some major dental problems after 4 plus years of dental neglect due to fear if the dentist. I have fillings that have fallen out and refuse to go but I’m finally at the point as far as pain wise and worry wise that I may loose all of my back teeth if I keep at this rate. I stopped going to the dentist because I can’t seem to get numb. I have gone to 6 different dentist and every single one of them could not get me numb. The last one made me sit through the pain it was horrific. I will not go to another dentist due to the pain it causes. My question is do I have another option? Could I be put to sleep to get my teeth taken care of?

  25. Good day!! I am 26 years old and i was about to have my first lower left molar removed today, the tooth was broken in a way which only the left side of the tooth remains and bits of pieces here and there. I wasn’t able to have it checked soon after it was broken due to financial reasons so it decayed…In the procedure though my lips, my cheek and my tongue is numbed i can still feel the pain when some parts of tooth is being extracted and sometimes also when she uses the elevator tool…she already gave me two shots for the local anesthesia for that procedure but the pain is still there so she decided to send me home with a bunch of antibiotics and come back after 2 weeks.
    I was wondering why there is still pain even after 2 shots of anesthesia and why didn’t it hurt when the other pieces of the tooth is extracted (Yes, some pieces is painful when being removed and some are not)..
    Is is just me or is there something going on because of the condition of the tooth? or some other reason?

  26. I recently went to get a tooth extracted. After three tries the tooth or my lip didn’t get numb. My jaw did but nothing else. Dentist plans to try again in few days. Why does numbing not work for some people?

  27. I had a tooth pulled today, and I was not completely numb. The doctor got upset with me and told me it wasn’t so. He continued to pull and I screamed in agony. He than told me that I can not come to his office again. The tooth is out, thank god. I was hoping the doctor could be a little more understanding.

  28. Not only is it impossible to numb my mouth for any type of procedure, the rest of my body is the same way. Last time I had a filling, the dentist had to put the whole vial in a gun like thing and inject the crap out of the area of the tooth he was going to work on. I finally told him, just friggen do it and get it done. Just the other day i had an infected toe in which a new nail was coming in. The doctor had to remove the nail. He had to keep injecting me in order to get it numb enough to work on me. It wore of 5 mins after he finished. Not sure how I didnt even pass out. Some people, i think like 10 percent of the population (if i remember correctly) has a highly sensitive nervous system. Im thinking thats what it is.

  29. Thank you for the information on why local anesthesia may not work as well for everyone. Whenever I go to the dentist they end up giving me more anesthesia because the first dosage doesn’t work, and I’ve been wondering why that is. I’m a red head so maybe that’s the answer! I’ll mention this to my dentist next time and maybe they can cater to my resistance to anesthetic.

    • Hi,

      I was born a natural redhead,I have the light yellow warm toned skin,but never had any feckles.My hair faded to a medium sandy blonde color in my late 30’s so now I have to color it red. But I had never had any problem getting numb at the dentist until just recently early this month I had a deep cavity that my dentist said came from an old filling that wore out and got a hole in it and the cavity was inside it.I literally hadn’t had *any* cavaties in 15 years after being very prone to getting them from the time I was 8 years old until I was 35!

      I often would have one cavatie on the top,and one on the bottom at the same time. Well I never have had any cavaties with my present dentist that I have seen for the last 14 years,until now.A few years ago one of his dental assistants told me that my dentist doesn’t use the regular needle to numb your teeth he uses a wand which they said is better.So the day I went to get my cavatie filled with this dentist,I said I understand that you don’t use a needle but a wand,and he said it is a needle but it’s a pediatric size.He assured me before he did anything,that this wand is stronger than what I got many years ago the last time I had a filling done,and he said that he was going to make me more than 100% numb and that it was going to be the same as getting three needles.I said good that’s what I want because he told me the day I had an X-ray of this tooth after the dental hygenist found my cavatie while cleaning my teeth with the metal instrument,I asked him if it was a deep cavatie and he said yes.So I asked him if these types of cavaties are deeper than what the X-ray shows and he said they usually are and that he couldn’t know how deep it was until he drilled in the tooth,which really scared me!

      So he gives me one wand dose,and he numbed my gum enough that I didn’t really feel it,I wait some while,and I’m not getting hardly numb at all so I told him and then he gave me another one and I still didn’t get real numb like I used to get from even just *one* regular sized novacaine needle,I would get a real numb heavy feeling in my lip,which was like it had been punched,my cheek and my tongue.I always asked for two needles to make sure that I was very numb in the past.And I told him this,and has always been a nice and gentle dentist,but I don’t like what he said to me.He said well sometimes people think they remember things a certain way and it’s not how it happened and he gave me an example of someone he knew that had remembered something not dental related,that hadn’t really happened that way.

      Well,I was way to exhausted from having only a few hours of sleep for a month from the time I found out I had this (deep) cavatie,and too scared to tell him,that I have always had a detailed phographic memory,I can remember details of what people were wearing and the things they said *40* years ago! But besides this,who could forget how very numb and heavy your tongue,lip and cheeks would feel from just one numbing needle?! I would get more numb from one of those needles thantwo he gave me,and I got more numb from two,than the *four* he had to give me this month!

      While I didn’t feel the needles when they went in,when they wore off,my gum was extremely sore for 4 days and it hurt to open my mouth to eat,and hurt even when I didn’t open my mouth to eat,it got better days later but it still hurt some five days later and it took a week to go away.I even had to apply Oragel but it didn’t help much and it washes right off because of saliva.My dentist did give me written instructions to take Tylenol or Motrin

    • Hi,

      I was born a natural redhead,I have the light yellow warm toned skin,but never had any feckles.My hair faded to a medium sandy blonde color in my late 30’s so now I have to color it red. But I had never had any problem getting numb at the dentist until just recently early this month I had a deep cavity that my dentist said came from an old filling that wore out and got a hole in it and the cavity was inside it. I literally hadn’t had *any* cavities in 15 years after being very prone to getting them from the time I was 8 years old until I was 35!

      I often would have one cavity on the top,and one on the bottom at the same time. Well I never have had any cavities with my present dentist that I have seen for the last 14 years,until now. A few years ago one of his dental assistants told me that my dentist doesn’t use the regular needle to numb your teeth he uses a wand which they said is better.So the day I went to get my cavity filled with this dentist,I said I understand that you don’t use a needle but a wand,and he said it is a needle but it’s a pediatric size.

      He assured me before he did anything,that this wand is stronger than what I got many years ago the last time I had a filling done,and he said that he was going to make me more than 100% numb and that it was going to be the same as getting three needles. I said good that’s what I want because he told me the day I had an X-ray of this tooth after the dental hygienist found my cavity while cleaning my teeth with the metal instrument,I asked him if it was a deep cavity and he said yes.So I asked him if these types of cavities are deeper than what the X-ray shows and he said they usually are and that he couldn’t know how deep it was until he drilled in the tooth,which really scared me!

      So he gives me one wand dose,and he numbed my gum enough that I didn’t really feel it,I wait some while,and I’m not getting hardly numb at all so I told him and then he gave me another one and I still didn’t get real numb like I used to get from even just *one* regular sized novacaine needle,I would get a real numb heavy feeling in my lip,which was like it had been punched,my cheek and my tongue. I always asked for two needles to make sure that I was very numb in the past.And I told him this,and has always been a nice and gentle dentist,but I don’t like what he said to me.He said well sometimes people think they remember things a certain way and it’s not how it happened and he gave me an example of someone he knew that had remembered something not dental related,that hadn’t really happened that way.

      Well,I was way to exhausted from having only a few hours of sleep for a month from the time I found out I had this (deep) cavity,and too scared to tell him,that I have always had a detailed photographic memory,I can remember details of what people were wearing and the things they said *40* years ago! But besides this,who could forget how very numb and heavy your tongue,lip and cheeks would feel from just one numbing needle?! I would get more numb from one of those needles than two he gave me,and I got more numb from two,than the *four* he had to give me this month! At least I didn’t feel the drilling!

      While I didn’t feel the needles when they went in,when they wore off,my gum was extremely sore for 4 days and it hurt to open my mouth to eat,and hurt even when I didn’t open my mouth to eat,it got better days later but it still hurt some five days later and it took a week to go away. I even had to apply Orajel but it didn’t help much and it washes right off because of saliva.My dentist did give me written instructions to take Tylenol or Motrin before the numbing wears off and it also said that it’s normal to have some sensitivity around the tooth/area worked on that day and it recommends using Sensodyne toothpaste ( which he gave me a sample of) until the sensitivity goes away.I only used this a few times.

      I didn’t bite or chew on my right side for almost three days to give the poor tooth a rest from all of the deep drilling and I was also afraid that it would hurt because of this.Well I started to eat on the right side too,on the third day,and it caused a sharp pain which I thought was hopefully just because the nerves were still sensitive from the filling,but now it’s over a week and although part of the tooth doesn’t hurt,there is still an area that hurts to bit down on it! Why would this be? I really hope that it’s just because the filling is somewhat uneven and needs to be filed down more,although I would need at least two numbing needles for this if he has to use a metal instrument because I’m sensitive to pain and my poor gum has just recovered. I’m really worried that it could be some damaged nerves from drilling deeply and that it could cause me to need root canal!

      By the way,the only time I even got three numbing needles which I asked for,was when I had my only root canal when I was 26 because a large old filling caused a cracked tooth which was extremely painful and the endodontist and my regular dentist both said that cracked tooth can be extremely painful. I didn’t feel the root canal at all because I was extremely numb.

  30. Also, When I was 8, 9, 10 and 11 years old I had a creep dentist that didn’t even let me know there was novacaine available and he would drill my deep cavities without any and he would always tell me that he was going to just count to three, three times while drilling very slowly and it was excuciatingly painful! It was like getting electrocuted in your teeth!

    I even remember the two dentil hygienits,one was a blonde and the other a brunette and I even remember one of their names was Judy but I don’t remember which one. I remember one of them telling me to squeeze her hand if it hurts,and I did and she said what a strong little girl.

  31. I just noticed that I made a few typing mistakes in my first posts and I also didn’t mean to get a double post.

    But also the endodontist told me when I got my only root canal that I was luckier that the tooth was on the bottom because nerves in top teeth don’t get numb as well.Is this really true? This recent filling was on my back top mollar but I had it filled many years ago since it was an old worn out filling that this cavity was in and I had cavities many years ago through the years that were on top and bottom but I always got really numb.

  32. question, i dunno if i came to the right specialty but i hope u can answer it even with any lil info u know..ive had a toothache recently and of course i cant have it pulled coz it still hurts up until now..then 3rd or maybe on the 4th day of suffering from the pain, i noticed the part under my mouth also started to suffer from pain..im guessing its caused by the toothache coz i never had it before..i dunno if what hurts is/are muscle/s or blood vessel/s..that’s it..i really so very badly need an explanation for this and i hope u can answer me even with just your theories..

  33. Hi. I hope to get an answer here, I had a bad case of Bells Palsy when I was younger and find getting numb at the dentist really difficult on the side where I have the Bells. Could this be a cause of not being able to get numb? I’ve not been to the dentist in a while as the last appointment really put me off (3 injections with no luck, had to get the treatment done anyway) I’ve just re-registered as I’ve only just started getting pain in one of my teeth so feeling a bit anxious if I do need work done, will I be able to be numbed?

  34. I had an appointment to get my tooth removed the dentist shot me twice and tried to pull my tooth it hurt sooooooo bad both times he tried to pull he gave up and told me to call and make an appointment with a oral surgeon. I went to a another dental office and that dentist shot me one time and got my tooth pulled out with no problem and no pain. I recommend Madison and Pine Dental to anyone!!!! Never go to Loretto Hospital to get your tooth pulled!!!!! The dentist works by his self with no assistance!!!!! No good!!!!!And he just did not know what to do!!!!!!!!

  35. Am just wondering if having trigeminal neuralgia makes any difference on whether you can become numb or not?

  36. Hi..I have no fear of needles or sound of the drill..the problem I have is everytime dentist start drilling my back teeth, it feels like I’m chewing on foil..and get a shock..making me jump out of the chair and dentist has to stop..I explained to them but it seems they just think I’m a really nervous person..which I am not. They don’t see me to believe me and they loose patience with me. However, drilling my front teeth I have no trouble with..if I was that scared and nervous..wouldn’t I be the same with work on my front teeth?..this is what I cannot get through to the dentists..help and advice please as I’m seeing my dentist next week to replace fillings in my BACK TEETH!!!!!

    • I have anxiety, and a very stubborn side. Laughing gas doesn’t calm me, I have only had it once and they may have given me the wrong concentration. But I do have a high pain tolerance, first time I got novacain I think they got it in the wrong place. Not a blood vessel since my heart rate was the same as it was before. That experience with the needle was so bad I refused to get a shot the next time I got cavities filled. Which went OK, felt like a trip to the orthodontist when the got glue off my teeth. (Which I blame for a couple of my cavities. )

  37. Important: If you use anesthethics without adrenaline (which I did) it takes a lot longer for them to work.
    My surgeon rarely used those, so out of habit, he started 4 minutes after the injections (instead of 10-20 minutes) and started pulling. I said it hurt, he claimed I was feeling ‘pressure’ and continued.
    After they were taken out, I was in lots of pain (before, I had seen something in the hospital-shop that I wanted to buy, but after the surgery I walked straight ahead to the car and didn’t bother to look back)
    And once I was in the car and we were on the highway (+/- 3 minutes later), my lip and jaw stopped being tingly and all the pain was gone. I figured that was when the anesthethics started working.
    So today I’m going for the other two, on the right side, and I’m kindof scared but I’m going to make sure that he waits long enough this time.

  38. Yesterday was the absolute worst day of my entire life. I’m very scared if the dentist as is and my tooth cracked in the middle of the night causing a lot of pain and also discomfort. The dentist gave me well over 30 shots of lidocaine and I was numb, but as he kept getting closer to my nerve, I started to feel it he gives me more shots yet I still felt it and This was going on for quite some time. He tried pulling my tooth out but it wasn’t going anywhere.

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