I have awful teeth. I really do, and I really want to do something about it, but I have a problem that no dentist seems to be able to help me with. NONE of the numbing drugs used by dentists seem to work on me AT ALL. I am not experiencing any kind of adverse reactions to the drugs. In fact, if anything it is like I am under reacting! Several dentists have given me shot after shot after shot, trying to get my teeth numb, and it wears off almost immediately. I tell them I can still feel the tooth (even though my lip is totally numb), and they tell me it is all in my head.
This is not about an inability to deal with pain. My health has been poor, and I have lived with various painful conditions off and on for years. All of that kind of pales in comparison to what I go through in a dental chair.
Have you ever heard of this? I am tired of being treated like a “problem patient” and I really, really want to get my teeth fixed. I am afraid that I am going to have to be totally knocked out to get all my dental work done.
Thanks for helping me.
Sergei in New York
It will relieve you to hear that yes, we have seen other patients just like you, patients that get so anxious that local anesthetics like Novocain that are used to numb treatment areas simply don’t work. For many of those patients, nitrous oxide (also called NO or laughing gas) relaxes them enough to let the numbing medications take effect.
As you have unfortunately discovered, not all dentists understand the complex phenomenon that is pain. When patients are extremely stressed or anxious, local anesthetics do not work as effectively, and wear off much more quickly than they should. If we have a patient that is not responding to what should be an effective dose of Novocain, we administer nitrous oxide, and then give them the Novocain once more. If they are still not responding properly to the local anesthetic, we suggest “conscious sedation”, which is an oral sedative administered before treatment. You are not totally sedated, but very few patients remember anything at all about their treatment when under conscious sedation. Some people call this kind of dentistry “sleep dentistry“, but technically the patient is not asleep.
Sadly, this is very often the case in people who have had traumatic dental experiences as children. That fear festers and grows, until even the most routine dental care is hugely stressful.
A good sedation dentist can help you break this cycle. You don’t have to “white knuckle” your way through treatments.