In truth, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, since there are several different factors that might affect how long the numbing effect will last, mainly:
- The type of dental procedure that is going to be performed. This will affect the type of numbing agent/anesthetic used, the dose, and other aspects.
- Your individual condition and overall health, anesthetic effects can vary from person to person
- Whether any infection is present. Most dental anesthetics are generally less effective when used on an infected tooth, gum tissue, and/or nerve. Infections will increase the acidity of the tissue.
- The number of nerves being numbed, and the size of the area where anesthetics are administered
- Whether epinephrine or another vasoconstrictor agent (medication used to narrow down your blood vessel) is used together with the numbing agent, which will prolong the numbing effect.
- Where in your mouth the dental procedure is going to be practiced. The lower jaw (mandible area) is denser than the upper jaw (maxilla area), and so anesthetic administered to the lower jaw will take longer to be effective, and will also last longer.
In general, however, a typical dental procedure with local anesthesia administered that will numb the tooth and surrounding area for 1 to 2 hours (or the length of the procedure). The following 2-5 hours after the procedure (and in rarer cases, can last up to 8 hours), may leave your lips, tongue, cheek, jaw, and even the whole face numb.
This condition can lead to various issues and may affect your normal daily activities. This is why many people might look for potential ways to shorten this numbness effect after a dental procedure.
Best Practices During Dental Numbness
Before we discuss several actionable tips you can try to wear off numbness faster, however, here are some important rules/best practices to follow until your anesthetics truly wear off.
Following these are important for three main reasons:
- Ensuring the dental procedure that has just been implemented to be successful, just as desired
- Avoid potential injuries and/or complications and ensure a speedy recovery period (depending on the dental procedure/treatment)
- Making sure the numbness after anesthetic to wear off properly, as soon as possible
With these points being said, here are the aforementioned rules/best practices:
- Porcelain/ceramic dental fillings allow you to chew and eat relatively hard foods immediately after the numbness has worn off completely (check the color of your new filling if it’s white/natural-colored)
- Metal fillings generally won’t allow you to chew directly on the newly implemented filling for the first 24 hours, even after the numbness is completely gone
- If you really need to eat when the numbness is still in effect, don’t chew on the numb(er) side of your mouth. Since you can’t properly feel around your mouth, there is the danger of biting your tongue, lips, or inner cheek (and you might not realize it at first)
- Avoid drinking and eating hot foods and drinks, since you might not be able to properly differentiate the temperature, and could burn your mouth if you are not careful.
- When the numbness has properly worn off, try chewing something soft and check your bite for any discomfort, misalignment, or imbalance.
- If a child is the one experiencing numbness after a dental procedure, observe the child closely so they are not playing or accidentally biting the numb area.
- If you really need to brush your teeth, be very careful not to injure the numb area. Avoid brushing (and flossing) until the numbness is completely gone.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, and any tobacco consumptions as they can increase risks of infection.
- If you want to take a nap or sleep when the numbness is still in effect, keep your head straight up if possible, especially when there’s also swelling after the procedure.
How To Make My Numbness Wear Off Faster?
As mentioned above, having your tongue, cheek, lips, and even your whole face numb for hours can be extremely discomforting (and for some people, fearsome). With that being said, here are some things you can try to make your numbness wear off faster.
1.Active Physical Activity
The best way to wear off the numbing effect of the anesthetic drug is to increase your blood circulation rate through physical activities. However, first, ask your dentist if participating in physical activity after the specific dental procedure is safe, and what kinds of physical activities are allowed.
It doesn’t need to be a really heavy physical activity: simply going for a bike, swimming, taking a brisk walk, or even doing your chores around the house can really help increase your blood flow, and thus reduce the numbness in a natural way.
2. Massage The Numb Area
This one is only possible when no swelling or outer injury is present.
You can apply a warm compress on the skin of the numb area to increase blood circulation in this area. Massage the area carefully and slowly, and don’t directly touch the treatment area. Also, wash your hands before and after the massage. You can massage your face, mouth, and lips.
3. Take a Nap
This one is not really about letting the numbness wear off faster, but taking a nap and really falling asleep can simply allow the numbing effect to pass when you wake up. So, if you can and if your daily schedule permits, sit back, take a nap, and let the numbing sensation wear off naturally.
4. Additional Medication
There are medications that can help reverse the effects of the anesthetic drug. Typically this medication is going to be administered with another injection (can be on the treatment area or on the other areas of the mouth/body). If it’s absolutely necessary, ask your dentist for this reversal injection.
However, this additional injection or medication will obviously cost more, typically ranging from $20 to $100, and most insurance companies won’t cover this since it is—in most cases—not medically required.
As established in the above tips, the numbing effect (and other effects) of the anesthesia will wear off with increased blood flow, as the anesthetic drug is carried away in the bloodstream.
Different types of dental procedures can require varying doses of anesthetics, and so different types of anesthesia might produce different effects and length of numbness. Have patience in allowing the numbing effect to naturally wear off before trying anything drastic.
However, if the numbing effect is prolonged for more than 8 hours, or worse, for days, contact your dentist immediately and make another visit as soon as possible to avoid future issues and complications.