I have an extreme sensitivity to “all” of the numbing drugs commonly used by dentists. This is not a biological reaction, I am not allergic to anything at all, the drugs simply do not work as they normally do with most other people. I have, through hideous experiences come to the realization that I cannot tolerate dental procedures unless I am unconscious. Have you had experience with persons with my situation? I must emphasize that this is not simply a case of inability to handle pain or discomfort. I was the victim of a pilanidal cyst of considerable dimensions and endured the surgical procedure necessary for its’ removal. That really stung a lot! That is nothing compared to what I experience when undergoing dental procedures. Please let me know if I have any hope of improving a less than dazzling smile. Thank you in advance for your time and help.
– Kenneth from Ohio
PS – by the way… well designed for visually impaired persons. Great job!
Yes, I have had a lot of experience with patients like you, and I understand this problem particularly well because I have had times when I have had so much anxiety that the novocain hasn’t worked for me, either. For me, usually nitrous oxide will calm me enough that the novocain will work. But I have treated a number of patients that had to be deeply sedated in order to become numb.
Few dentists really understand this phenomenon, so I wrote about it a few years ago for a dental journal. There’s something in your body chemistry that if you are stressed or anxious enough, it prevents the complete action of the novocain or causes it to wear off exceptionally quickly. Here is a scenario that I often had in my office. A person comes in for treatment and doesn’t want to admit that they have had past traumatic dental experiences. I give the patient the injection of novocain. They begin to feel numb right away, so I know I have “hit the target.” I begin to work, and they feel pain. So I tell them I think they need nitrous oxide gas. Now here comes the interesting part. If I just give the nitrous oxide gas, they will still feel pain when I start working again. I learned that I had to wait until they were sufficiently relaxed and then RE-ADMINISTER the novocain, and then they were fine. Or if they needed stronger sedation, then I would give that and then I would need to do a new injection after they are fully sedated.
My experience is that this happens when people have had past traumatic experiences in the dental chair. In my case, it was a children’s dentist who didn’t use novocain, and then later painful experiences with other dentists.
I don’t know if you have a dentist, but my suggestion would be to look for a sedation dentist or a dentist who practices sleep dentistry. Conscious sedation rather than general anesthesia is much less expensive, safer, and more convenient than going with complete general anesthesia. And most people will not remember the appointment. But if that isn’t strong enough for you, then you will need to go to the general anesthesia.
Click here to read Kenneth’s follow-up e-mail, Novocain doesn’t work.
click here to ask Dr. Hall a question.
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About David A. Hall
Dr. David A. Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does advanced internet marketing for dentists.