Updated on February 7, 2024
5 min read

Novocaine – Uses, Dosage, How Long it Lasts, Side Effects & Risks

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What is Novocaine?

Novocaine, also known by its generic name procaine, is a local injectable anesthetic. Dentists sometimes use it to numb specific areas of the mouth. More commonly used local injectable anesthetics include lidocaine, articaine, mepivacaine, and bupivacaine. 

Although novocaine used to be one of the most popular, dentists use other local anesthetics more frequently today. This is due to the increased risk of novocaine allergy compared to other options. 

Novocaine and other local anesthetics prevent nerves from transmitting pain signals to the brain.1 They allow a dentist to perform procedures on your mouth while awake. They also prevent you from feeling any pain.

How is Novocaine Used in Dentistry?

Dentists use local anesthetics like novocaine for dental procedures that don’t require general anesthesia, including:

Other specialties beyond dentistry also use local anesthetics like novocaine. They’re most commonly used in dermatological procedures, such as biopsies and mole removal.

How Long Do Novocaine’s Effects Last?

Novocaine’s numbing effects typically last between 30 and 60 minutes. You’ll start to feel numb in the injection site within 5 to 10 minutes. 

Compared to some other local anesthetics, novocaine’s effects are short-lived. Lidocaine takes slightly longer to set in, but its effects last between 60 to 120 minutes.2

Because its effects are short-lasting, your dentist may use it for a shorter dental procedure.

Novocaine Safety Precautions

Novocaine is a highly safe anesthetic. Dentists have expert training in measuring and administering the correct dosage for any dental procedure. 

However, any drug has risks, and novocaine is no exception. It can have side effects and may cause potential complications.

Potential Side Effects

Dentists deliver novocaine by injection, which can be uncomfortable. However, any pain from the needle should only last a few seconds.

Most side effects of novocaine are mild, though this depends on the person.

A carpule of novocaine typically contains epinephrine to prolong the numbing effects. This may cause adverse reactions.

The most common side effects of novocaine include:

  • Burning or tingling sensations at the injection site
  • Minor pain at the injection site
  • Muscle twitches
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or drowsiness
  • Pale skin
  • Cold sweats
  • Heart palpitations
  • Adrenaline rush (if epinephrine is used)5

These side effects should wear off quickly. Contact your dentist immediately if any of these side effects persist for more than a few hours.

Risks and Complications

A severe allergic reaction to novocaine is possible, but it’s extremely rare. Only 1% of the adverse reactions from local anesthetics are related to allergies.6

Contact a doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms of an allergic reaction to novocaine:

  • Itching and hives
  • Difficulty breathing or moving
  • Swelling in the face or hands
  • Seizures or loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Signs of anaphylaxis

What Not to Do on Novocaine

Novocaine is a safe and gentle local anesthetic that acts quickly and wears off quickly. Novocaine does not come with many warnings.

However, if the numbing effects of novocaine take longer than expected to wear off, avoid hot foods/drinks and chewy foods. 

Inform your dentist of any medications you currently take. They can evaluate possible drug interactions with novocaine, though these are rare.

What Factors Impact How Long the Effects of Novocaine Last? 

Novocaine typically lasts up to an hour. However, its duration can vary based on several factors, including:

  • The size of the area receiving numbing
  • How many nerves need to be blocked
  • The amount the dentist injects

Your dentist may give you an increased amount of novocaine for certain procedures to make the effects last longer. 

The effects and how long novocaine lasts also vary.

Around 1 in 5,000 people have a genetic condition that prevents them from effectively breaking down novocaine.3 For these people, most commonly of Jewish or Alaska Native heritage, novocaine’s effects may last longer.

Can You Make Novocaine Wear Off Faster?

The best way to let novocaine wear off is by waiting. However, you may be able to speed up the process with some simple tricks.

 If you’re still numb and want to make the sensation wear off faster, try these ideas:

  • Take a walk — As long as you didn’t have a complicated oral surgery, such as wisdom teeth removal, it’s okay to move around. Getting your blood flowing can help the novocaine wear off faster.
  • Gently massage your face — Massaging your face can increase blood flow. Just make sure not to press too hard.
  • Use a warm compress — Heat increases circulation, so a warm compress is a gentle alternative to moving around or massaging. 
  • Ask for a reversal injection — Your dentist can inject a reversal agent, such as OraVerse, to help the numbing effects wear off more quickly. Dentists may recommend this for children who might otherwise chew the numb areas in their mouth.4


Novocaine is a local anesthetic dentists sometimes use to numb an area before dental procedures. It’s safe and fast-acting but wears off quickly. Because of this, and the higher potential for an allergy to novocaine, many dentists now use lidocaine, which lasts longer.

The effects of novocaine typically last 30 to 60 minutes. You can make it wear off faster by moving around, massaging the area, or applying a warm compress to your mouth. 

You may experience mild side effects from novocaine, like burning or tingling, headaches, and muscle twitches. Severe allergic reactions are rare. Always talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about novocaine or other local anesthetics.

Last updated on February 7, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 7, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Sheikh, N., et al. “Procaine.” StatPearls, National Library of Medicine, 2022.
  2. Lemke, K., et al. “Local and regional anesthesia.” Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, National Library of Medicine, 2000.
  3. Pseudocholinesterase deficiency.” Medline Plus, National Library of Medicine, 2012.
  4. Prasanna, J. “OraVerse: Reverses Numbness After Dental Procedures.” Journal of Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery, National Library of Medicine, 2012. 
  5. Greene, B., et al. “Incidence of the “Adrenaline Rush” and Vasovagal Response with Local Anesthetic Injection.” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery – Global Open, The American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2021.
  6. Speca, S., et al. “Allergic Reactions to Local Anesthetic Formulations.” Dental Clinics of North America, ScienceDirect, 2010.
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