One of the most frequent dental phobias refers to experiencing pain due to incomplete anesthesia. Defined as partial effect of anesthesia on the nervous system, imperfect anesthesia is both frustrating and dangerous. Causes may vary; here are the most important ones:
- Anatomical differences. The relatively big difference between the anatomy of one patient’s mouth and another can lead, in relatively rare cases, to imperfect anesthesia. Even though no actual medical error occurs during the procedure, a particular distribution of the nerves in the oral cavity will force the dentist to make several attempts before finding the correct position and / or dosage while performing dental anesthesia.
- Dental malpractice. There are two types of mistakes that occur in rather rare occasions. The first one refers to improper dosage: should the amount of substance be less than necessary, patient is likely to feel discomfort and / or pain. The second one refers to injecting the anesthetic the wrong way.
- Infection. As infection can increase acidity levels, and anesthesia is directly connected to these levels, the procedure becomes less effective. This is the reason why many dentists avoid performing dental anesthesia on infected teeth, and prefer to treat infection with antibiotics prior to any actual dental work.
- The type of anesthesia. Although common anesthesia is highly tolerated by most patients, there are cases when certain patients do not react well to one particular substance. Should this be the case, additional tests are required to define the limits of anesthesia and to find possible treatment.
- Interaction with other drugs. Certain pain killers and alcohol may interfere with correct anesthesia.
Although in rare occasions incomplete anesthesia can happen, statistically, it is better if the dentist sticks to the original protocol. Serious unwanted effects can follow overdoing local anesthesia (such as on too large an area or using too much substance):
- Prolonged muscle block can further affect neuronal functions as well as local physiology.
- Hypo- and hyperglycemia can interfere in the process of recovery from anesthesia, and thus influence metabolism.
- Hypothermia, with serious effects on the functioning of the central nervous system, etc.
Communication is highly important: make sure you tell your dentist if anesthesia isn’t working for you!