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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.
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.
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 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.
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:
These side effects should wear off quickly. Contact your dentist immediately if any of these side effects persist for more than a few hours.
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:
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.
Novocaine typically lasts up to an hour. However, its duration can vary based on several factors, including:
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.
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:
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.
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