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Does Local Anesthetic Always Get Patients Numb?
The prevalence of the "not numb" experience

by David A. Hall, D.D.S.

These questions relate to the use of local anesthetic or novocaine for dental treatment. Local anesthetic is usually given by injection in the mouth prior to having fillings placed or other dental treatment. The following questions were asked of 200 survey participants nationwide in a telephone survey conducted in July 2002 by Central Marketing, Inc., a professional research firm. Here are the questions. The frequency of positive answers to each experience are listed in parentheses at the end of the option:

1. Have you ever had trouble getting numb for a dental procedure, when the dentist couldn't get you numb or you required three or more injections of local anesthetic in order to get you numb? Please select among the following alternatives the answer that most closely describes your experience:

a. This has never happened to me. (152)

b. Once or twice I've had times when I've had trouble getting numb, but with extra local anesthetic, I'm always able to get numb. (29)

c. I often have trouble getting numb, but with extra local anesthetic, I'm always able to get numb. (10)

d. Once or twice I've had a situation where the dentist was not able to get me numb, in spite of all he or she could do. (4)

e. The dentist is often not able to get me numb, in spite of all he or she can do. (4)

f. This always happens to me, where the dentist is not able to get me numb. (1)

2. If this has happened to you, where the dentist was not able to get you numb (answers d, e, or f above), did the dentist question whether or not you were telling the truth?

Yes or no.
(2 yes and 7 no)

3. What is your attitude toward dental care?

a. I go for dental care and have no problem. (138)

b. I have pain or anxiety with dental care, but I go regularly and grin and bear it. (36)

c. I have pain or anxiety with dental care, so I don’t go too regularly, but I do go and grin and bear it. (11)

d. I only seek dental care when I am in pain or have an emergency. (9)

e. I don’t get dental care because of fear of pain. (1)

f. I don’t get dental care for some other reason. (5)

For the raw dental local anesthesia survey data, click here.

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More articles
America's Dental Bookstore maintains this collection of articles on dentistry submitted by visitors to our site. These could be clinical tips, research articles, opinion articles, dental jokes, or whatever. Do you have something you'd like to submit? If so, click here to submit an article.