Theriot Family Dental

Why Can’t Dentist Get Me Numb?

Posted by writeradmin

Can you advise me? I have a lower central incisor that is infected and needs a root canal treatment. My dentist put a paste on it and did six shots. Even with all of that he wasn’t able to get me numb enough for the treatment. He refunded my money and wrote me a prescription for a Percocet, which handles the pain a bit but makes me feel weird. I know I can’t live like this forever. Is there anything I can do?


Dear Everett,

Man holding his jaw in pain, in need of emergency dental care.


I am so sorry for what you are having to deal with. You must be in tremendous pain. The good news is I am able to help you, though. There is a connection between a patient’s anxiety level and their ability to get numb. Not many dentists know about this connection yet. In fact, I only know of one journal article on the subject, so I am not surprised your dentist is flummoxed.

It appears when a patient is anxious in the dental chair, it somehow burns off or even blocks the numbing medication from working. We do not understand the why behind it. We have just made the connection. The good news is there is a solution.

You need to see a dentist who offers dental sedation. This will relax you in the dental chair and enable you to get numb enough to have your root canal treatment done.

Because your last appointment was so traumatic, I am going to recommend you get oral conscious sedation. This is administered by a pill but will completely relax you. It is really strong. In fact, it is so strong that you will need someone to drive you to and from your dental appointment.

Once your root canal treatment is done, you may not need such strong sedation for further appointments. You could try the lesser sedative called nitrous oxide. It is sometimes dubbed laughing gas. It won’t make you laugh, but it will make you feel relaxed and floaty. You may find this is all you need after a few good experiences at the dentist.

Call your dentist. See if he offers these two types of dental sedation. If he does, feel free to show him this post so you can move forward. If he doesn’t, you’ll need to find a sedation dentist at least until this infected tooth is dealt with. You don’t want to leave it because it will spread. These are considered dental emergencies.

This blog is brought to you by Lafayette, LA Dentist Dr. John C. Theriot.