Numbness from anesthetics after dental work is common, and it can be frustrating to experience a numbness that won’t go away.
A report updated by the CDC in April 2021 states that more than 25% of people have untreated dental conditions. Many of these cases are due to fears associated with anesthetics.
Some patients will forgo visiting the dentist to avoid dealing with long-term numbness. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with the numbness and manage the associated discomfort faster.
How Long Does Dental Numbness Last?
Two of the most common numbing agents used by dentist to help keep patients from feeling pain during procedures are lidocaine and Novocain. It can take up to 24 hours for the effects of these numbing agents to wear off completely. For many, that can seem like a long time.
Typically, the numbness after a dental procedure should begin to wear off after about three to five hours. However, if after a few hours or so the patient still feels numbness in their mouth and it hasn’t decreased at all, there are some options for getting rid of it faster, which we will cover below.
Additional Side Effects of Dental Anesthetics
Local anesthetics are given intravenously directly into the lining of the mouth. Dentists inject them at or near where the dental procedure will occur. Whichever form of anesthetic the dentist uses, some patients will have a strong reaction. The side effect symptoms can include:
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Difficulty breathing
If the patient experiences any of these side effects after having dental work done, they need to contact their dentist immediately. The patient may require additional medical care to treat these conditions.
4 Ways to Get Rid of Numbness from Anesthetics Faster
To get rid of the numbness from anesthetics faster, patients need to make sure they are well hydrated by drinking plenty of water before and after undergoing treatment at the dentist’s office. Drinking more fluids helps bring down blood sugar levels. Doing this, in turn, makes it easier for people who’ve been given anesthetics to metabolize drugs like lidocaine more quickly, because they have less insulin resistance.
People who are about to get dental work done should also try eating foods high in magnesium before getting an injection of a numbing agent, as this will cause higher blood flow throughout their body, including through any tissues affected by the drug. Here are a few more ways to get rid of dental numbness:
1. Massage the Jaw
Massaging the face around the jaw can help with circulation after getting an anesthetic. Before rubbing the jaw, a patient should use a warm compress to relieve numbness from dental work. A warm compress helps increase blood flow in the affected area, while a massage increases blood flow specifically to your mouth, lips, and face to stimulating circulation.
A patient should always wash their hands before touching anything near their mouth. Ensuring their hands are clean is especially necessary if the patient has open wounds or stitches from the dental procedure.
2. Increase Activity
Physical activity, in general, is crucial for overall health and wellbeing, according to the American Heart Association. Further studies show that increased activity levels can improve healing times and improve circulation. It can also increase a patient’s metabolism, which will also work to get the body to process anesthetics quicker.
Patients must ask their dentist if it is safe to engage in any physical activity after a dental procedure. If the dentists say it is okay, patients can stimulate blood flow by being more active.
3. Take a Nap or Go to Bed
If a patient continues to struggle with numbness after a dental procedure, sometimes the easiest way to get past feeling it and worrying about it is to take a nap and allow the numbness to recede.
4. Have Patience
There are many types of dental procedures that require varying amounts of numbing medication, and several factors will determine how long the sensation of numbness will last. Based on their metabolism, weight, age, etc., different people will have different levels of sensitivity.
Patients can avoid any potential unexpected discomfort after a dental procedure by speaking to the dentist about how long they can expect the numb feeling in their mouth to last. Knowing this will help patients be more comfortable about the length of time it takes for the medications to wear off.
What Patients Need to Know About Dental Nerve Damage
In rare cases, it’s possible that the dentist might hit a nerve with the needle. When this occurs, trauma to the dental nerves can range from moderate to severe. Any changes to taste or function in the time after a dental procedure can result from a dental nerve injury. Typically, it can cause damage to one or all of these nerves:
- Lingual nerve: Trauma to the lingual nerve is a common dental injury. The tongue may be numb, causing pain and loss of taste. It usually heals within six months. Yet, if the condition lasts longer than six months, it’s usually permanent damage.
- Inferior alveolar nerve: The inferior alveolar nerve is the longest and most comprehensive of the nerve branches. If the dental procedure involves the lower jaw, it is possible to cause injury to this nerve. In the case of root canals, implants, or extractions involving lower molars, prolonged facial numbness could be the result of damage to this nerve.
Patients often ask what dental nerve damage feels like. The answer is that it depends on the severity of the injury. Also, it depends on which nerve was damaged. In some cases where nerve damage is involved, dental numbness can be permanent.
Therefore, if a patient is experiencing long-term dental numbness, they should not assume it is normal and will go away on its own. They must contact their dentist or another health care professional regarding possible nerve damage.
Dental Numbness Reversal: Pros and Cons
In certain cases, medication can reverse the effects of dental numbing agents. Patients looking for a way to get rid of Novocain numbness or make lidocaine wear off faster should talk to their dentist about this reversal injection.
The FDA has approved only one intravenous medication for reversing the effects of anesthetics. The name of this medication is phentolamine mesylate. It works to speed up the return of natural sensations. How exactly phentolamine mesylate does this is still a bit of a mystery, but it’s believed to increase blood flow to the affected area.
In some rare cases, phentolamine mesylate can cause side effects. These side effects include lowering blood pressure and causing irregular heartbeats. These conditions could lead to more severe events. When visiting the dentist, patients must be sure they discuss any history of cardiovascular disease they have.
Medical professionals agree that the use of phentolamine mesylate in children under three years old or those weighing 33 pounds or less is irresponsible. Also, if a dental procedure, such as surgery, produces soft tissue, nerve, or bone pain — often referred to as “stingy sensory loss” — doctors may not recommend phentolamine mesylate.
Managing Dental Numbness After a Procedure
Many people are uncomfortable with the thought of getting a dental procedure done — one of the worst parts is the length of time it takes to get rid of the numbness afterward.
Hopefully, the suggestions outlined above will help alleviate the discomfort caused by anesthetics and make it go away sooner.