If you ever need to undergo a dental procedure other than a mere check-up or an X-ray, you’ll almost certainly be given a dose of local anesthetic to numb your mouth and prevent whatever it is the dentist is doing to your teeth from hurting.
However, after the procedure, you’ll find your face is still numb, and it may be a while before all feeling returns. And for anyone wondering about the duration of this effect, in this post, we answer the question, how long does dental numbing last?
How Long Does Dental Numbing Last? The short answer
The short answer to the question of how long dental numbing lasts is “it depends”, but generally speaking, the numb feeling after most dental procedures lasts from around 30 minutes to about two hours.
However, some people may still feel some numbing around their lips, face and tongue for anything up to five hours.
The amount of time the numbness lasts can vary according to a range of factors, so after a trip to see the dentist, you may find that the numbness wears off very quickly or lingers for a bit longer than you’d like – but after five hours, the effect should have completely worn off.
If you want some more information about this topic before reading on, you can also check out this video first.
What factors can affect how long numbness lasts?
There are several factors that can affect how long it takes for the numbness to wear off after a dental procedure.
For example, if you had the injections in your lower jaw, the numbness will probably last longer since there are more nerves in your lower jaw that are connected to the rest of your face.
The amount of time the feeling takes to wear off may also depend on your height and weight, and your metabolic rate may also play a role because this affects how quickly you can clear your system and metabolize the anesthetic.
Your age may also affect how long the anesthetic lasts as may your general fitness since younger, fitter people can usually process the anesthetic faster than older or less fit people.
The type of procedure and the amount of anesthetic the dentist used may also be important – more major procedures may require more anesthetic, and this may lead to the effects lasting longer than if a smaller amount had been administered.
Similarly, the size of the area being treated will also affect how long the numbing effect will last since a larger area will require more anesthetic to be injected and so the numbness will last longer.
Tips for recovering faster
If you want to get rid of the numb sensation as quickly as possible – and to be honest, who wouldn’t? – there are a few things you can try. Here are some ideas.
1. Apply a warm compress
After your dental procedure, try applying a warm compress to your face where it feels numb. This will improve the circulation, helping to flush the anesthetic from the area more quickly.
2. Massage your skin
Similarly, massaging the skin on your face and lips will also improve the circulation in the affected area, helping the anesthetic to dissipate faster.
If you do this, you should wash your hands both before and after massaging yourself to avoid any infection, especially if you have had a tooth extracted.
3. Be active
Engaging in some kind of physical activity can also help remove the anesthetic from your system more quickly. Going for a brisk walk or a jog or perhaps going for a bicycle ride will get your blood pumping, speeding up your recovery.
This will also have the added benefit of taking your mind off the numbness, making it more bearable.
However, if you are considering this option, it’s advisable to check with a doctor first to make sure you won’t be putting yourself at any risk – and if you feel any adverse effects like dizziness during exercise, you should stop immediately.
4. Drink plenty of fluids
You should also make sure you drink plenty of fluids after your dental procedure to help with your recovery – unless your dentist specifically tells you to avoid eating or drinking for a specific amount of time.
5. Suck on some candy or chew gum
If you can suck on some candy or chew gum, this will also help with the circulation in the area, reducing the amount of time you experience the numbness.
However, this might not be advisable if you’ve just had a tooth pulled out or undergone any other procedure that would make this a bad idea.
6. Take a nap
Another option is simply to go to sleep for a bit. This won’t speed up the recovery from the numbness, but if you’re asleep, you won’t be aware of the strange feeling – and when you wake up, the numbness will have significantly reduced or even gone away altogether.
7. Ask for a reversal injection
After being anesthetized, it’s possible to ask for a reversal injection that flushes the anesthetic from the affected area.
However, this can cost between $25 and $75 and isn’t covered by insurance since it’s considered non-essential, so you’ll have to pay for it yourself.
Should you worry if the numbness doesn’t go away?
The numbness should be completely gone by five hours after the procedure, so if you still feel significant numbness after this, you should contact your dentist for advice.
Which procedures require local anesthetic?
Since our teeth and gums are sensitive, most dental procedures beyond check-ups or cleaning require anesthetic. For example, you will receive local anesthetic before fillings, crowns, root canals and extractions.
What is used for local anesthetic in dental procedures?
The anesthetic usually used for dental procedures is called Novocaine, which is the brand name for a drug called procaine. It is injected into the gums or mouth and works by blocking the messages that nerves send to the brain to register pain.
What does it feel like to have a numb face after a dental procedure?
If you are about to have a dental procedure and have never experienced the aftereffects of local anesthetic, you might be wondering about what to expect.
After the injection, your mouth will quickly go numb, and after the procedure, your face and mouth will still have no feeling.
Some time after this, you will start to be able to feel your teeth again first, followed by your face and then your tongue.
Until the numbness wears off, you may find it hard to eat, drink or talk. For this reason, it’s not advisable to schedule anything like business presentations or lunch dates for at least a few hours after your dental procedure has finished.
Is it possible to have an adverse reaction?
Novocaine is considered extremely safe, and adverse reactions are rare. However, some people may feel some of the additional effects besides the numbness:
- Minor injection site pain
- Muscle twitching
These side effects are usually very minor and wear off quickly as the numbness disappears.
However, if the symptoms persist for more than five hours – or you still feel numbness more than five hours after the procedure – you should contact your dentist for advice.
If the numbness persists for longer than five hours, it may indicate potential nerve damage or an abscess, in which case your dentist will be able to tell you what to do.
Occasionally, some people may suffer an allergic reaction to Novocaine, in which case you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical advice immediately.
In extremely rare cases, some people may also experience more major adverse reactions that can include some or all of the following:
- Chest pain
- Irregular heartbeat
If you experience any of these symptoms after receiving local anesthetic for a dental procedure, you should contact emergency services immediately.
Why might a dentist use extra anesthetic?
Novocaine is less effective if a tooth is infected or inflamed. This is because the infection or inflammation causes the acidity or the area to rise, making Novocaine less effective.
As a result, the dentist may need to inject more Novocaine to achieve the same pain-killing effects.
Is Novocaine the only anesthetic used for dental procedures?
No, Novocaine is now a relatively old option, and nowadays, you may also be treated with other anesthetics such as lidocaine (Xylocaine) and articaine.
Are local anesthetics safe for use if you are on medication?
If you are taking some other medication – including over-the-counter medication and prescription medication – you should talk to your dentist before beginning your procedure to allow the dentist to choose the best anesthetic for your case.
A normal effect – and one that will soon wear off
Although having a numb face can be annoying – or perhaps quite amusing to your co-workers when you arrive back in the office after your procedure – it’s quite normal, and it won’t be long before it wears off, allowing you to eat, drink and speak normally again.
The best thing you can do is be patient, but if you want to speed things up, there are also a few things you can do to help. However, if the numbness or other symptoms persists – or if you suffer from more serious side effects – you should contact your dentist for further advice.