Home/General Dental/Getting Numb – A Patient’s Guide – Part 1

A patient’s 2-minute guide to getting adequately ‘frozen’ for your dental visit (the first part of a 2 part series)


Patients sometimes report that it is difficult for them to achieve adequate “numbness” for routine dental procedures.  Fortunately, there are a variety of local anesthetics as well as various techniques for delivering them.  Additionally, There are some very interesting reasons why patients may problems becoming numb.  Most of these can be prevented once the causes are understood.

Your Body’s Acidity Will Alter Your Body’s Response To Dental Freezing

Anything that causes the pH, or acidity level, of the body to be abnormal can result in poor anesthetic performance.  These agents require a very narrow pH range in order to be effective.  So, if a patient is taking high levels of vitamin C, for example, the body’s pH may be too low, or acidic.  For these patients, stopping vitamins for two days before their appointment could be helpful.  Also, when a patient has a dental infection, the pH in the area of the infection may be low, requiring additional anesthetic or a different method of delivering it.  It would be much better to have the problem treated before it becomes a full-blown acute infection, but if this isn’t possible we will have patients begin antibiotic therapy for a couple of days before proceeding with necessary treatment.  The lesson?  If a problem is suspected, have it checked out sooner rather than later to avoid unnecessary discomfort, expense, and loss of time.

Grinding and Clenching Your Teeth Could Make you More Difficut to Freeze

Similarly, if a person grinds or clenches, her muscles may have a build up of lactic acid similar to that when we exercise any muscle heavily.  In this case, the pH is thrown off due to the accumulation of the lactic acid.  Such patients will benefit by chewing 4-6 regular TUMS tablets with plenty of water the night before their dental appointment, and again 4-6 tablets of TUMS the morning of the appointment. This changes the level of acidity of the body to allow dental freezing to work better. If you do have a tendency to clench your jaw muscles, check out the article on how Dr. Tan  helps his patients  reduce or eliminate the habit without having to wear a bulky night guard.

Controlling Your Metabolic Rate Can Control The Duration of Effective Dental Anesthesia

Others experience anesthetic that does not seem to last long enough.  Sometimes, one’s metabolism can be in high gear contributing to the short-lived effects of the anesthetic.  For example, patients who are very nervous may have this issue.  Similarly, those who have had significant caffeine or vigorous exercise prior to their appointment may have the same problem.  Limiting the coffee or energy products and physical activity on the day of your dental appointment will be helpful.  For those who are very nervous, a mild oral sedative may be the solution.

A small group of patients may have a rather rare genetic disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which affects various tissues in the body.  These patients may experience joint hypermobility, stretchy skin and may be easily bruised.  These patients also may not become adequately numb for dental procedures.  These patients may need additional anesthetic as well as more frequent doses, and in some cases, they must be treated with intravenous or general anesthesia for basic dental treatment.

Believe it or not, there is some evidence that people with red hair may have more difficulty achieving adequate numbness!  The same gene which results in red hair and fair skin is the culprit.  Redheads will normally 30% more anesthetic to feel adequately numb.

Here are some basic rules to follow to ensure the best result from your local dental anesthetic:

  • Have a restful night’s sleep before your dental visit.
  • Do not rush around and try to do a day’s work in a couple of hours before your visit. Also, no vigorous exercise within a few hours of your appointment.
  • Avoid caffeine products especially the day of your visit.
  • If you have had difficulty achieving adequate numbness in the past, try taking Tums™ before your appointment.


The Dental Professionals at Georgian Dental® can help you experience a different approach to whole body health, starting with holistic dental care.

Call to reserve your consultation with Barrie Dentists Dr. Tan, Dr. Bot and Dr. Ng, at (705) 739-6725, we’re here to help!


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