For patients nervous about seeing the dentist, their anxiety often stems from fear of pain. Luckily, modern dentistry has progressed and we now have better tools, medicine, and technology to minimize or completely dull pain during major procedures. But when it comes to numbness after dental treatment, how long it lasts can also be a concern.
Anesthesia is commonly used by dentists for procedures that would otherwise be too painful for patients to undergo, including root canals, tooth extractions, and dental implants. It can even be useful for some routine treatments, like cavity fillings.
It’s normal to experience numbness after anesthesia, though its after-effects can vary by patient. Below you’ll find information on anesthesia, how it’s used in dentistry, and what you can expect.
Different Types of Anesthesia
The numbness after dental treatment that you experience is largely dependent on the type of anesthetic you received for your procedure. There are three main types of anesthetics:
Usually an ointment or gel, these may be applied for minor procedures, or to prepare an area of your mouth for an injection of local anesthetic. It’s usually rubbed on the gums at and around the treatment site.
This is administered as either a block injection, or an infiltration injection. Block injections can numb entire areas of your mouth, like parts of your jaw, while infiltration injections numb smaller areas.
Also called laughing gas, nitrous oxide is administered through a mask. This option is seen more as an anxiety reducing tool for patients, as it’s minimally effective at reducing pain. It remains an appealing option because of its short-acting lifespan and affordability.
Depending on the type of procedure you undergo, your numbness after dental treatment will vary. For something like a cavity filling, your local anesthesia should wear off within 1 to 3 hours. While the numbness dissipates, you may experience some difficulty chewing, speaking, or even smiling within that window.
It’s especially important to monitor children after a procedure involving anesthesia to make sure they aren’t prodding the injection site, which may be irritated or sore for a few days. While numb, they may also accidentally bite their tongues or cheeks, which can be painful when sensation returns.
Before your treatment, make sure to tell your dentist about any medications you take (including supplements), so they can account for possible reactions. It’s also important to give notice of any allergies you have and to look out for any sign of allergic reaction if you’ve never been anesthetized before. If any of these symptoms, like rashes or trouble breather, occur, you may need immediate medical attention.
For the vast majority of people, anesthesia can be used safely and effectively with no problem.
Your dentist should provide you with detailed instructions for your after care, which can sometimes vary depending on your procedure. In some cases, you may need to take pain medication afterwards, so be sure to follow the dosage instructions provided.
Regardless of the level of anesthesia, here are some general do’s and don’ts for any procedure that involves numbness after dental treatment.
- DO rest!
- DO take your antibiotics (if you were prescribed any)
- DO keep your mouth clean
And to avoid any setbacks in your healing,
- DON’T plan on exercising for the rest of the day (or longer, depending on the procedure)
- DON’T smoke for at least three days
- DON’T drink hot liquids — the numbness can keep you from feeling pain, and you can burn yourself
- DON’T chew excessively — you could bite your cheek without realizing, too
My Family Dentistry practices comfortable dentistry and customer care that puts you first. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an upcoming dental procedure, contact our office today.