How Long Does Tongue Numbness Last After a Dental Procedure?

How Long Does Tongue Numbness Last After a Dental Procedure?
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How Long Does Tongue Numbness Last After a Dental Procedure?Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. When Do You Need to Get Your Tongue Numbed?
  2. The Process of Numbing & Different Methods
  3. How Long Will It Last?
  4. Effects from Numb Tongue
  5. Precautions to Take
  6. References
Most people do not enjoy the trip to the dentist's office, even for a routine check-up. There is plenty of anxiety about dental pain, and many people delay getting medical attention when it comes to fixing issues with their mouth, teeth and gums.
Dentists use anesthesia to induce numbness around the mouth and relieve any pain. In some cases, dental practitioners use anesthesia to keep you calm and relaxed.

When Do You Need to Get Your Tongue Numbed?

Your tongue gets numbed as part of the application of anesthesia or the use of sedation. Several procedures and conditions necessitate the need for numbing. For example, dentists use local anesthesia to perform extensive tooth cleaning, root canal treatments and teeth extractions. 

Numbing will also help patients suffering from a variety of maladies that make it difficult for them to stay calm. Their anxiety can hinder the repair process by limiting access to the affected areas.

For example, patients with a strong gag reflex may struggle even with routine dental processes. Similarly, patients with joint pain in their mandibles may also require sedation or an anesthetic to allow their mouths to open up wide enough enough for a dentist’s access.

For more invasive treatments, dentists rely on other extensive forms of anesthesia application or sedation. Such processes include:

  • Wisdom teeth removal: Their later emergence means they can often distort teeth arrangement, necessitating removal, which is sometimes difficult and can be traumatic without numbing.
  • Dental implants: Dental implants procedures can induce plenty of anxiety, but patients must remain still to enable the dentist to insert these precision implants correctly.
  • Emergency dental treatment: In case of a dental emergency, the shock and pain you are experiencing calls for numbing to keep you calm and relieve your current pain.
  • Bone grafting: This procedure may be necessary for alignment, especially for those who need to fit dentures properly. Without a tongue numbing, the procedure can be painful – or at least uncomfortable.
  • Jaw surgery: Surgery may be necessary to treat conditions like congenital misalignment of the jaw or sleep apnea.

Process of Numbing: Different Methods

There are different ways of numbing, and the choice depends on the patient's condition and the state of consciousness that the doctor will want them in during treatment. The four main options are a topic anesthetic, a local anesthetic, a general anesthetic or sedation.

Topical Anesthetic

The dentist applies a numbing gel to the area that needs numbing. It is usually a way to help with the pain that comes with the needle administering other forms of anesthesia.

Local Anesthetic

The dentist injects the numbing agent into the specific location of the procedure. There are numerous drugs, including lidocaine, but articaine is gaining more popularity for its effectiveness.

General Anesthetic

This is the strongest form of anesthesia, and it will render the patient unconscious. It is rarely used unless it is a major procedure with plenty of pain or the patient is uncontrollable.

Sedation

Sedation, unlike anesthesia, will not leave you completely numb or unconscious. It will help you relax and calm unaware of the procedure. Parts of you may be slightly numb. It can be administered through inhalation, an oral drug or an IV solution.

How Long Will It Last?

How long tongue numbness lasts varies person to person, and it depends on a combination of factors. (Three factors are the method of numbing and the amount and strength of medication used.) On average, though, the during is two to five hours.

A local anesthetic usually falls within the three-to-five-hour bracket, while general anesthetics, which usually leaves you unconscious, can take longer.

As for sedation, inhalation has the shortest acting period, usually between one to two hours. On the other hand, IV sedation will take one to six hours, depending on the amount of sedation used.

Again, people with a fast metabolism will see the numbness wear off faster. For this reason, you are encouraged to be physically active.

Effects from Numb Tongue

There are generally few to no side effects from a numb tongue. What you get are usually general side effects to the numbing agent and  these typically wear off within a short time.

Some of the effects from a numb tongue include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itchiness
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
  • Burning and tingling sensation
  • Some may feel the loss of taste

Precautions to Take

There are a few precautions you should consider when getting a numbing agent for your dental procedure, which includes:

  • Allergies: Let the doctor know if you have any allergies to pain killers or any anesthetic agents.
  • Age: Children and older people will require dosage adjustments and special consideration to prevent adverse effects from the numbing agents.
  • Alcohol: Avoid drinking alcohol at least a day one day before and one day after being numbed. Alcohol can worsen the drug's effect. 
  • Medical condition: If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, especially ones that affect your lungs, kidneys, liver and heart, doctors will reconsider the dosages and type of medications they will use.
  • Softer foods: Any food you eat should also help prevent hard chewing until the numbness wears off.

References

What You Need to Know About Dental Anesthesia. (December 19, 2019). Healthline.

The 411 On Dental Anesthesia. Colgate.

Guidelines for Use of Sedation and Anesthesia by Dentists. (October 2016). American Dental Association.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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