Uh oh! The dentist found a cavity during your routine checkup. With the help of digital X-rays taken before your hygienist cleaned your teeth, he identified the cavity in one of the back molars on your lower jaw and told you to schedule a 45-minute appointment the following week to repair your tooth.
When you returned for your filling the following week, the dentist administered an injection of novocaine to freeze or deaden the nerves in your molar hosting the offending cavity as well as the area surrounding the tooth. Everything went well, but the area frozen by the novocaine was numb for HOURS afterwards!
Why does it take such a long time for dental freezing to wear off?
What is dental freezing?
Another term for anesthetic is freezing. It is “medication that produces the temporary loss of feeling or sensation.”
There are two types of anesthetic:
- Topical – This type is used to numb the surface of your mouth where the injection will be administered
- Local – This type is a solution injected near a nerve in your mouth to numb your tooth and its surrounding area. It blocks impulses from the nerve to your brain.
Dental freezing takes longer in the lower jaw
It takes longer to freeze nerves and teeth in the lower jaw because the bone is dense. And because the bone is dense, your dentist performs a nerve block injection. Compared to an injection to your upper teeth where only one or two teeth are frozen, a lower nerve block freezes all the teeth in the lower quadrant of your jaw. This procedure freezes about half of your mouth. Your cheek, lip, chin and tongue will all feel numbness.
Wiki says: “An injection blocks sensation in the inferior alveolar nerve, which runs from the angle of the mandible (jawbone) down the medial aspect of the mandible, innervating the mandibular teeth, lower lip, chin, and parts of the tongue, which is effective for dental work in the mandibular arch. To anesthetize this nerve, the needle is inserted somewhat posterior to the most distal mandibular molar on one side of the mouth. The lingual nerve is also anesthetized through diffusion of the agent to produce a numb tongue as well as anesthetizing the floor of the mouth tissue, including that around the tongue side or lingual of the teeth.” Wow! Do not try this at home!
How long does freezing last?
It must be understood that the way people process anesthetic is different for everyone. Depending on the type of anesthetic used, dental freezing may last one to two hours or even as many as six to eight. And as long as there is some improvement as time passes, there is nothing to worry about.
Are there any complications associated with dental freezing?
While rare, complications can occur. Please tell your dentist of any medications you are taking or medical procedures you have had.
The most common complications are biting your lip, cheek or tongue while they are numb to pain and without sensation. Because they are numb, it is possible to severely bite the inside of your mouth. We recommend and strongly advise that our patients do not chew gum or eat foods that require chewing until sensation has returned to your cheek, lip and tongue. Soups, puddings, yogurts, mashed potatoes, ice cream are great choices to be eaten instead.
You can’t have cavities without dental freezing and fillings. They go hand in hand. If you are apprehensive about dental freezing or have questions about filling cavities, call Davis Dental at (307) 634-3488. We’d love to hear from you and answer your questions.