Why Doesn't Dental Anesthesia Work For You? Finding Solutions To Dental Pain

Many people receive local anesthesia via an injection in the gums before a dental procedure. Under normal circumstances, this numbs the nerve(s) leading to the teeth that will be worked on and eliminates your perception of pain. But for some people, local anesthesia doesn't work as expected. If you experience pain during dental procedures despite being given a healthy dose of local anesthesia, you may be tempted to neglect your dental care in the future. Understanding why you are resistant to the effects of dental injections and what you can do about it will put you on the road to maintaining proper dental care.

Why doesn't local anesthesia work for you?

There area number of reasons why the injection may not numb your teeth and gums. The most common are:

  1. An Existing Infection: If you have a abscess or other form of infection in your mouth, anesthesia may not work well, or it may not produce any numbing effect at all. According to Net Wellness, anesthesia used for dental procedures is slightly acidic, but so are infections. When the two acids intermix, little or no chemical action occurs, resulting in ineffective numbing. Your dentist may treat infections with antibiotics for several days before a dental procedure so that anesthesia will work better for you.
  2. Individual Anatomy: Everyone is different, and that includes the shape and size of your mouth. Nerves may be located at slightly different angles or in a different location than your dentist expects. Because the local anesthesia is injected into a nerve, difficulty pinpointing its location can account for ineffective anesthesia. Your dentist may be able to locate the nerve and give you another injection in a slightly different location.
  3. Anxiety: Sometimes the problem lies with your feelings of anxiety. Anxiety can increase your perception of pain and make you think the anesthesia isn't working as it should. This in turn may cause you to experience more anxiety that results in even more pain. If your dentist and doctor determine that your primary reason for experiencing pain during dental procedures is anxiety, your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety meds to relax you before your appointment.
  4. Red Hair: As bizarre as it may sound, if you have red hair, you may have problems with local anesthesia for dental work. According to a 2009 article published in The Journal of The American Dental Association  (JADA), variations in the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) gene that causes red hair also causes resistance to local anesthesia in dental procedures.
  5. Medical Conditions: There are several medical conditions that can affect how well local anesthesia works during dental procedures for you. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), a group of genetic disorders affecting the connective tissues, can prevent the dental injection from numbing your teeth and gums as it should. Talk to your doctor about any other medical conditions that may affect your experience at the dentist.

Are there alternatives to local anesthesia for dental procedure?

Yes. Some dentists perform what is called sedation dentistry. This typically involves receiving intravenous medication through an IV during the dental procedure. The dentist can control the amount of medication to keep you calm and pain free during the procedure without putting you to sleep. If you need extensive work done, your dentist can also refer you to an oral surgeon who will perform the procedure using general anesthesia. With general anesthesia, you will be asleep during the procedure.

If you experience dental pain when having your teeth worked on, let your dentist know right away. Unless you alert them, they will assume the anesthesia is working as it should. Remember, you are not being weird or whiny. There are often very real reasons for your experience. Your dentist will work with you to find a solution to the issue. Continue reading more here.