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Dentistry/Nerve blocks


QUESTION: Iíve never had a nerve block that numbs all the teeth on one side of my jaw, but from what Iíve read & seen about them online, they look & sound particularly painful.  My question is, how uncomfortable are they?  Specifically what concerns me is the fact that the dentist has to use a long needle to advance farther into the tissues, which frightens me.  How badly does that hurt, and how long does the pinching sensation last?  Is it just a quick pinprick, or can it be felt the whole time the needle is pushed in?  Sorry if Iím asking too many questions, but thank you for your help!

ANSWER: Hi Michael,

What you are describing is only used on lower teeth. Most dentists are very careful and realize that patients are less than excited to get numb even though the alternative of NOT being numb is much worse than enduring getting numb. As a result, we start by putting some numbing paste on the area where the needle will enter. We keep the anesthetic solution warm, at body temperature, so there is no feeling of a cold liquid going into warm tissue. As we move the needle, we also inject anesthetic solution ahead of where the needle will go and go very slow. As a result of all this, there is very little sensation to the patient. Of course you would fell a bit of the whole procedure, but usually not what you would call painful. If you were to feel anything, it would be only for an instant.

Hope this helps.

Gary Backlund DMD, MSD

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your reply.  I may need some clarification though.  You said this type of injection was used only on lower teeth, of which I'm aware.  However, is it still needed if only 1 lower tooth (e.g., for a filling) is being affected, or is it only for numbing several bottom teeth at once?  Thanks again.

Hi again Michael,

Unfortunately, the answer to your question is yes, you need to block all the lower teeth. The reason is that the uppers have several different nerves that supply them, but on the lower, there is only one and it runs deep in the jaw bone of the lower jaw. In order to get it numb, we need to put the anesthetic right where the nerve exits from the jaw which is way back behind all the lower teeth and then the whole lower goes numb...lips, teeth and usually the tongue as well. It's just the way we're all put together :-).

Gary Backlund DMD, MSD


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Gary Backlund, DMD, MSD


I am an Endodontist ( root canal specialist ) and can answer questions about root canals and their treatment. I cannot diagnose or treat online, but can answer general questions. I have been a specialist for 25 years and am Past President of the Washington State Association of Endodontists.


25 years practicing as a specialist

American Association of Endodonists, Past President Washington State Association of Endodontists.

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