A Question For Discussion This Fair Evening

Which is:

I was at the dentist’s yesterday to get a small filling done, and while I was there the dentist, his assistant and I had a discussion about painkillers, and the fact that some people — not a huge number but not an infinitesimally small number either — prefer not to use them when getting their teeth drilled. The thinking there, as far as I can tell, is that the momentary displeasure of a high speed drill on your tooth is not worth either a needle being jabbed into your gums, or having half your face numb for a couple of hours, or both.

I personally think this is incomprehensible — please, numb me up and numb me up good — but I’m also aware that my tolerance for pain is not, shall we say, Olympic.

So let me ask you: When at the dentist, do you prefer to be numbed up into oblivion? Or do you prefer to ride it out without the Novocaine? Or does it depend on the procedure? I’m genuinely curious. Let me know in the comments.

277 thoughts on “A Question For Discussion This Fair Evening

  1. Had a root canal on one of my front teeth once (random blood infection, nothing to do with my teeth-cleaning habits).

    They injected the hell out of my face with painkillers but I could still hear everything and feel the pressure. Basically sat there the entire time with tears rolling down my cheeks.

    Yes to painkillers. ALL THE PAINKILLERS.

  2. I usually pay the few extra bucks to get nitrous oxide, but no Novocain. I have a stupidly high tolerance to that, so they have to use so much, my gums are sore after. (Though I only discovered that recently when I decided to try the needle method.) I’ve never noticed any pain while on laughing gas. The drilling sensation is still there, and the smell of burning tooth is kinda gross, but it’s not bad enough to endure the intense poke.

    Also, I’ve read there’s a risk of damage to the trigeminal nerve when they do the injection. Scary!

  3. Jesus. I’d be gassed for everything, and that includes an exam, if I could get away with it.

  4. For anything short of a root canal, I skip the painkillers. I’ll gladly take the momentary pain over hours of a tingling tongue and drooling down the front of my shirt.

  5. I had my wisdom teeth taken out a few years ago — in my late 30s — my mouth had room, but a couple of them needed work and it was easier and cheaper to have them out.

    Anyway, I did with just novocane, but I I think I wish I had been knocked out. One of the teeth he had to crack with a pliers to get it out. No pain, but — my god — the sound was utterly haunting.

  6. I prefer the numbing to the pain. I’m usually pretty sensitive to that sort of thing.

    However one time I had a cavity that was too shallow for the drill to hit any nerves, so the dentist recommended against anesthetics. I accepted her advice and it worked out. I didn’t have to wait around for the shot to take effect, didn’t feel any pain during the procedure, and didn’t have to be careful not to unknowingly bite my own face off for the rest of the morning.

  7. Robin in NM: It’s a rare day when someone beats me to a reaaally bad pun. Well done to you sir!

    And gimme drugs, lotsa drugs! I suspect your pain tolerance would beat mine John…

  8. I have done both. Honestly, the pain of having a tooth drilled is usually minimal — but it feels really weird and uncomfortable, almost like super-localized nausea.

  9. I prefer to be numbed up, but I’m careful as to what they use. Novocaine, OK, but Valium and other drugs that imitate the effect of alcohol, no.

    And oddly enough, Novocaine was sufficient for my root canal. The only pain I felt for that was when I got the bill. ;-)

  10. I once lost a filling and only noticed because I bit into the loose filling. I kept brushing my teeth as normal until my appointment and didn’t feel a thing. Had that one re-filled with no lidocaine. From then on I’ve asked for gas for larger fillings but eschewed the shots.

  11. Definitely numbed with novocaine. My previous dentist was good at applying local anesthetic enough that I couldn’t feel the needle. (He moved away because our community wasn’t Christian enough.) His replacement isn’t quite as good at preventing me from feeling the needle, but I’d still rather feel that then feel any drilling. Isn’t drilling=torture a central plot point of Marathon Man?

  12. For tooth drilling or wisdom tooth removal, drugs. Lots of drugs.

    But I don’t understand people who want to be sedated for regular dental hygeine work. Really? Sure, the hygenist gets a little poky sometimes when doing the gum depth check, but other than that it’s just a bit boring and annoying.

  13. Numb. I don’t like the needle, and I actually have a fairly high pain thresh-hold (not tolerance), but that drill biting into bone is just–no. And I can’t imagine getting root canal without painkillers–the dentist is drilling out the nerve, man, and no way. Before I had a root canal with no painkillers, I’d have the tooth extracted. I suspect it would be easier to bear.

    I have heard of dentists who didn’t like using novocaine, or other painkillers, but not in the past four or five decades. I suppose if that person had an allergy to the whole category of dental painkillers and/or had experienced an adverse reaction to the drugs use, I could see it. But otherwise, dental pain is not your friend.

    In my opinion.

  14. I’m in the “the more painkillers the better camp.” However, I read an article a while back (don’t remember where) by a dentist at a Marine base. Apparently, the fad among young Marines there was to have procedures like root canals done without any pain medication as a demonstration of how tough they were. Seems a little crazy to me but there you are.

  15. Novocaine plus nitrous oxide, because anxiety is not my friend (it’s a jerk that follows me around).

  16. I’ve been through enough surgical procedures in my life (really, a stupid number of procedures for somebody my age, thanks to my superpower of generating precancerous tissue, YAY) that if I have to have ANY kind of procedure anymore, screw it, I want to be off in lala land while they’re doing it.

    Which includes asking for nitrous at the dentist if I have that option and I’m _well_ prepared to pay the extra bucks necessary. My dentist is awesome, very much promoting gentle dentistry, and they don’t skimp on the nitrous.

  17. It varies by procedure for me. For drilling or extractions, I’ll take the needle. I’m generally OK with needles and find that the actual pain (if any) from it is almost always far less than I anticipate. If anything, the taste of novocaine is more unpleasant than the injection.

    For periodontal cleanings (where various kinds of probing, flensing, and scraping are applied to the teeth and gums), I prefer not to be numb. It can be slightly uncomfortable at some times, but not enough to make it worth a face-numbing.

    My new dentist has used a topical anesthetic as well, which still tastes yucky, but doesn’t involve a needle and doesn’t spill its effects over onto my face.

  18. My childhood dentist (a children’s specialist) did not use Novocaine. His reasoning? Almost all kids freaked out over the needle and it always hurt, while most kids could handle the drilling without too much discomfort. He always offered to stop and use painkillers if I felt it was needed, but I never asked. Neither did my siblings.

    It did freak out the dentist I first went to as an adult, who saw this as a some sort of sign of Southern Savagery and Backwardness. I now always get the painkillers, because I have very bad teeth with big fillings.

    I hear there is a drug free dentist locally who charges through the roof.

  19. Numb me, please. Although the needle is distinctly uncomfortable, what I can feel when they’re working on me without anesthetic leaves me quite certain I don’t want to go without. (Also, the sensations I experience when I’m numbed give me food for thought about proprioception and other ways our bodies give us feedback we are typically less aware of. Even though sipping from a cup is rather more risky until the numbness fades.)

    My better half had to have all four of her wisdom teeth out, and, because of how they were placed (“special, and not in a good way,” according to the dentist), it was a seriously non-trivial procedure. Like, risk of fracturing her lower jaw, removal of the upper wisdom teeth left holes leading up into her nasal cavity, that kind of thing. Part of the way through, the anesthetic started wearing off, and she didn’t give them any sign of distress because she’s that hardcore. So they didn’t know she’d started being able to feel it again until they asked her.

    (She also said that the worst part wasn’t even the pain, it was hearing bone cracking inside her head.)

  20. Prefer numbing, but mainly because if that drill hits a nerve and causes me to move suddenly, you never know what could happen. Had a dentist (also my CO in an Army Reserve Hospital unit at the time) catch my mustache in the spinning cup full of pumice once. Yowza!

  21. I have exposed root surface on my teeth (my father does, too), which makes even tooth cleaning an incredibly unpleasant experience. Having ultrasonic cleaning feels like a reenactment of scenes from “Marathon Man.” I pay extra out of my own pocket for nitrous oxide every time I get my teeth cleaned and have them cleaned with manual scrapers. It’s still unpleasant at times, but tolerable.

    I haven’t gotten a filling or other major work in ages, but I would definitely want to be heavily drugged.

  22. I have an incredibly high pain tolerance…except in my mouth. Fillings and the like are killer painful to me. Problem is, I have a high tolerance to the Novocaine as well, so they have to numb me up so much that I’m numb from my forehead to my chin. It sucks, but it’s better than the pain.

  23. My ex-husband always declined the Novocaine. He preferred the drilling to the needle. But I’m the opposite. I once didn’t get numb after a Novocaine injection, and I felt the drilling. It was really bad: sharp, nasty spikes of pain. I stopped the dentist and had him try again with the injection. I prefer the needle.

  24. True story; I was having a wisdom tooth out. It was my first time at an oral surgeon and was given a Very Big Black Pill to take on an empty stomach with “as little water as possible twenty minutes before and was driven to the office because the Very Big Black Pill made me loopy. They not only used Novocain, with which I was familiar, but laughing gas to whose effects I was unaccustomed. With was seemed like four hands in my mouth, I started thinking about oral surgeons and remembered the old joke about playing the violin. Man hurts his hand and asks the doctor fixing it up if he will be able to play the violin. The doctor says “Yes.” and the man tells him he’s a great doctor because he could never play the violin before. I started to think about asking if I could have oral sex, and started laughing. They asked me if I was choking and I smiled and gave a thumbs up.

  25. If it wasn’t so risky, I’d want to be COMPLETELY UNCONSCIOUS every single time. As it is, novocain me, baby. Shoot it good.

  26. If you’re getting near my teeth with a drill you need to give me the kind of pain killer that sends me to into another happy world filled with pink clouds, rainbows, and white unicorn pegasi. I will also need enough of those pain killers to give a horse that experience.

  27. No anaesthetic for me unless they’re drilling far enough in that they’re going to directly hit a nerve. The grindy bit is annoying but much less so than the complete numbing of my mouth and cheeks, and the nasty, nasty taste of the stuff.

  28. I prefer to get the novacaine, but my last few dentists had a technique for injecting it that made it an absolutely nothing experience.
    On the other hand, I’ve only had locals for a number of medical procedures that usually require being knocked out – watching a surgical procedure, even when done on myself, is a learning experience, not a gross out experience.
    Finally; I had multiple impacted wisdom teeth removed and the anaesthetic used was nitrous oxide combined with intravenous Valium. Boy, what a ride that was. I highly recommend it if you’re ever given the option

  29. I’m fortunate to have good enamel, so for many years my few cavities were very small and my dentist felt getting the novacaine would hurt as much as getting the filling. He must have been right, because I didn’t experience any trauma from this (and I’m not at all stoic). For everything more substantial, I definitely go with novacaine – I see no reason to suffer.

  30. More numbing, the better. I say this as someone who gags incredibly easily. Yeah, the needle pinches and is gross to think about, but it beats the alternative.

  31. I had a small filling done without anesthesia, and it wasn’t too bad, and I didn’t have mush mouth the rest of the day. But anything moderate to large procedure I would like the novocaine even though I don’t like needles. And the topical anesthetic they use before the needle does taste terrible.
    The root canal was surprisingly not as bad as all the stories I’ve heard. I had the novocaine and my iPod for that one.

  32. The last time I had a tooth filled, it was without novocaine. I’m not a fan of needles, but was a bit taken aback; I am a born-again-certified wimp. The dentist explained that what caused the pain of a filling was the heat generated by the speed of the drill, and if the drill was slowed down, it didn’t get as hot, and there wasn’t any pain. I agreed to give it a try, and much to my amazement, he was right. There was no pain.

  33. Last time I got fillings I was told ahead of time that the drilling bit was going to be minimal and that I would not need Novocaine. When I showed up for my appointment they had a sudden change of heart. I was super-resistant because I was headed for lunch right afterwards. They wound up numbing one side and leaving the other untreated so I’d be able to chew.

  34. I’ve had a fair amount of dental work over the course of my seven decades here as a result of little or no dental care when I was young. Back in the day – 1950’s – my occasional dentist didn’t “waste” painkillers on his probono patients. So I grew up without it and bore the pain and remember this is before the high speed drills. Ever since I could afford it, I’ve ALWAYS opted for pain killers, especially when having root canal work or extractions done. I can’t imagine having that work done without a painkiller. In fact, I doubt any competent dentist would allow it. To put this in context, I spent a year in terrible pain from two herniated disks and I was able to tolerate that better than tooth/nerve pain in my mouth.

  35. I was the unlucky kid that had a cavity every time I went in to see the dentist. I was also unlucky enough to have the old dentist that didn’t believe in Novocaine at least for kids. His answer to pain control, was to tell me that I should tell him if it hurt and then he would stop. When I would start to scream, he would answer mildly, “I can’t hear you speak more clearly…”

    Yeah, he was German with a thick accent. And yeah, when I later read about the Holocaust, his face entered my mind every time. I’m sure that he was a good person, acting in either what he thought was my best interests, or within my parents budget, but I’ll pass on the experience unless there is a damn good reason.

  36. I had the Valium/nitrous oxide with my wisdom teeth extraction about thirty years ago, and it still remains my all time favorite drug experience. I recommend wisdom teeth removal to everyone, although few people seem to have as good a time with it as I did.

    I’m also in the numb-me-up camp, and I have a high pain tolerance and a low needle tolerance. (I did natural childbirth twice mainly to avoid needles.) But mouth pain & drilling are scary.

  37. I have a high pain tolerance, and apparently a high resistance to Novacaine. When I had my wisdom teeth removed, the dentist loaded me up with all the shots he was willing to do. After taking out two, he said that from my reactions, he would not be willing to do the remainder without full sedation — which he wasn’t licensed for.

    I don’t fear needles, nor other forms of sedation. Even if it isn’t 100% effective, I’d rather be partially pain-free than take the drill straight.

    It should probably be mentioned that the -caine family of local anesthetics are chemically related to cocaine, and some other forms of sedation are similarly related to other drugs-of-abuse (like Valium). It may be that some of the resistance to sedation is because they are trying to avoid relapses.

  38. When I was a child, my pediatric dentist didn’t believe in novacaine for children, because, and I quote my mother here, “Children can’t feel the pain” or some such claptrap.

    I had seven fillings before the age of twelve. You bet your sweet bippy I felt the pain of every one of those drillings.

    When I got my first adult dentist, he told me the sweet, sweet words I never thought I’d hear: “I don’t believe in patient’s feeling pain. If you feel anything, tell me, and I’ll give you more novacaine.”

    I’ve carried those words through to a second dentist (after that blessed saint of a dentist retired), and I don’t regret it one bit.

    Give me painkillers.

  39. @scottedelman: After I had a panic reaction at the dentist’s once (it was not actually anything to do with the dentistry — PTSD from a bad medical experience, I think), my dentist started giving me the lidocaine that doesn’t have epinephrine in it, because she thought I might have reacted badly to the epinephrine. It turns out that stuff doesn’t keep you numb for nearly as long, which has worked out well for me — it lasts plenty long enough for a filling, but it’s wearing off by the time I’m in the car. You might ask about that possibility.

  40. I like to be comfortably numb, thank you. I’m unusual in that my body doesn’t take to novocaine very well. I need 5 or so shots for one filling and within 1/2 it has completely worn off. Still, I’d rather drool for 4 days than feel that drill. (And, yes, during childbirth I was all about the drugs–get ’em early and often.)

  41. I was born with certain medical issues, and as a result of having been through multiple, major, medical procedures, I have an incredibly high tolerance for pain.

    I had three impacted wisdom teeth (the fourth one never developed) removed when I was 14, before I had my braces put on. I had to have prophylactic antibiotics just prior to the procedure, because of all the prior surgeries I’d had. They used nitrous for the wisdom teeth, and I hated it–chest felt tight, I was hyperventilating the whole time, and the hygienist’s admonitions to “relax” did nothing to ease the discomfort. I felt them (not just the friction, but significant pain as well) pulling out each tooth.

    By contrast, maybe ten years later, I broke a tooth and had to have a root canal. Prophylactic antibiotics as before, but this time they used topical injections of anesthetic. Maybe it’s that my pain tolerance really is just that high, but I’d always heard ppl say that “Having a root canal is absolutely the worst pain I’ve ever felt.” Mine wasn’t *pleasant*, by any stretch, but the root canal was significantly less painful than the wisdom teeth. Much less traumatic, as well–the locally injected anesthetic meant I wasn’t hyperventilating during the whole thing, like last time.

    TLDR–gimme local anesthetic any day of the week, and twice on Sundays. I’m not dumb enough to test my high pain tolerance by doing without, and nitrous is clearly not my friend.

  42. In Japan, that’s pretty standard (no anaesthesia for less involved procedures). Have never tried it myself but apparently it is indeed not that bad.

  43. Numb? I’d prefer to be unconscious thank you very much! I have the equivalent cost of at least a Tesla in my mouth. It was the dentist who gave me root canals on both front teeth at the same time who introduced me to Nitrous Oxide. Now I pay for it out-of-pocket for everything except cleanings. My husband was always really anxious, and I finally got him to ask for Nitrous, even for cleanings. The dental visits are so much easier now! Thank goodness our daughter inherited strong teeth and good dental habits. She’s 10, and has never had a cavity (may the Flying Spaghetti Monster hold her forever in noodley appendages).

  44. That’s insane. I don’t like going to the dentist as a rule, and avoid it as much as I can.

    When I checked on board the USS Ranger, part of the check-in procedure is to have a dental checkup. So I had mine, and ended up getting a couple of fillings. They hurt for six weeks. After about the second week, I went back to dental and said “Hey, my teeth still hurt, can you check them out?” The answer I got was “That’s normal, take some Motrin.” (Motrin is the military cure for all ailments). Now, I know that it isn’t normal, what with these not being my first fillings and all, so I ended up taking about 1600 milligrams of Motrin a day until the pain went away – which it eventually did.

    Four years go by. Every six months for those four years I would get a notice from dental saying it was time for my checkup – which were compulsory. I balled mine up and threw it out. As my discharge date came up, much like checking in, you had to have a dental appointment to check off (and thus get my EAOS papers), so I went. The dentist noticed I hadn’t been there in four years, and was rather upset about it. I told him the story, and he got legitimately pissed…. *at me.*

    “If you need dental work, don’t come crying to us!”

    “You can count on that, sir.”

    So, anyway, give me the drugs. All of them.

  45. I can’t handle the drilling, so they have to Novocaine me – with the added bonus that it takes about 3x the usual dose of Novocaine to numb all the things they’re going to hit with the drill. In my experience, they *really* don’t like it when you flinch.

    Unfortunately, the administration of the Novocaine hurts like hell, the wearing-off is also extremely uncomfortable, and once the numb is gone the pain of what they did to my teeth and jaw is still quite present. So when, for example, they needed to do some drilling on a tooth where they knew the nerve was already dead, they asked if they could try it without the anesthetic and I said sure and they did and it was generally better. And when they had to do the thing they do before fitting a crown, where they burn away a tiny bit of your gums with a laser, they were about to numb me and I said look, this is going to hurt literally like fire when the Novocaine wears off, and the Novocaine itself is going to hurt, so can I just have half the hurt and do it without a net if you work really fast and I promise to sit perfectly still?

    And it was so.

  46. *raises hand* I don’t get Novocaine or other pain killer when getting fillings. I’ve had multiple fillings done, ranging from shallow to pretty damn deep. It seems to hurt the dentist more than me.

    You know that soreness you feel after getting a filling? That’s from the Novocaine, NOT from the drilling. The drilling itself actually doesn’t hurt unless it’s deep enough to hit the nerve. As long as the dentists “taps” his drill, the pain is only as bad as, say, a headache. Viewed objectively, it just isn’t that bad! However the *anticipation* of pain — the fear of not knowing how bad the pain will be — is pretty stressful, even after having done it several times.

    If the dentist ever drilled steadily, which my dentists don’t do even when I use pain killer, it would hurt like hell. But the tap just isn’t bad at all.

    So why do I do it? Because there’s no lasting soreness AT ALL. No inflamed nerves, no dead mouth to deal with, no sensitivity. He drills, fills, and it’s done. I’m back to my life.

  47. I’m a needle phobic, but I still prefer the needle for work involving even minor drilling, because I’m worried about what will happen if I jump. As for the root canal stuff — the first root canal I had was accidental, because my dentist started on what he thought was a minor repair job on some leakage around an existing filling, and discovered too late that the decay extended so deep under the filling that he was going to have to go into the nerve cavity to be sure of getting all of it. He’d given me a very light shot initially, and gave me a top-up when he realised what was happening, but by then the nerve was already irritated from the drilling and even with a full cartridge of lidocaine it hurt… No way am I doing root canal work without a local.

  48. I’ve got all my wisdom teeth, but they’re WAYYYYY in the back and deeply grooved.. Eventually I figured out that I should suggest getting them preventatively filled with the prophylactic plastic they put on your molar grooves when you’ve got deep ones; I had that done when I was an early teen, and my dentist said “oh, huh, I guess we never think to do that to adults.”

    Before that happened, however, I needed a couple of fillings in my wisdom teeth. I think the right bottom one they tried to numb me 3 times (to the point where it was in fact difficult to not drool on myself) to no avail; I still could feel everything they were doing. It was the worst of both worlds, a numb face for hours AND the sharp discomfort of being drilled without anesthetic.

    I had the other one done without novocaine. It hurt like the dickens, but it was far better than the alternative.

  49. I get numbing, but it’s unpleasant when it wears off.

    I was actually at the dentist myself yesterday getting two rather deep fillings done (9 left… don’t NOT go to the dentist for 6 years if you can afford it). I’m fine with numbing, and I’ve never been given nitrous (or even ever offered to me).

    You know what helped a whole damn lot though? Meditating through the procedure. I just breathed, counted, relaxed my body, and I was actually quite relaxed after the whole thing. I used to walk out of such things completely anxious, tense and freaked out. Now it’s more like a slightly unpleasant but overall resting time.

  50. I’m old enough to have experienced the ancient low-speed drills, I also have extensive experience with large amounts of pain so maybe I have the background. I only get numbed if they are going in near a root. Otherwise it is so quick and painless there is no need for all that novocain.

  51. I have a high pain threshhold (which is not always convenient; I don’t notice when I have cavities, for instance, or when I’m sunburnt) but needles to the gums hurt way more than getting fillings does. Needles to the face freak me out enough that (and my dentist knows this) I’d rather not have them. Fillings just don’t hurt, but the sensation of a needle sliding into my gum and the added pressure when the liquid’s injected is agony for me. The one time I have voluntarily had facial injections is when I had my wisdom teeth out, all four at once, pre-eruption, and my dentist was kind enough to prescribe a sedative so I’d be more relaxed about the prospect of being anaesthetized. When they were done, I took the one painkiller pill I was prescribed, and then didn’t find I needed anymore.

    Which is not to say “people who go with painkillers and anaesthetics are wimps” – far from it. Pain’s unpleasant, and I don’t wish any of it on anyone. It’s just that for me, fillings are less painful than the anaesthetic is.

  52. Novocaine, please. Numb me up. I just wish there were something to dull the sound of that drill. Seriously, it’s the sound of a drill in my head that freaks me out. Maybe the nitrous oxide will do that. They always ask if I want it and I always say no for some stupid reason. After the last time I had a filling, I decided that I’d be trying the gas next time.

  53. When I was a kid, I was so terrified of needles I wouldn’t let my dentist numb me (and he didn’t use nitrous oxide), so all my fillings through high school were done without any numbing. My dentist now (who is ah-may-zing) is astonished at this, and can’t believe a child would go through that but I was really, really afraid of needles. Dr. Tharp uses a variety of things that ameliorate the pain of the stick, like a topical anesthetic, blasts of air on the forehead as a distraction, tapping your cheek for the same thing, and he’s also a trained hypnotherapist for patients who have really significant dental phobias.

    I still don’t like the needles, but just the sound of the drill reminds me of how much it hurt when I was young, and I won’t ever go back to that… *shudder*

  54. I’m with Erika – I pay for the nitrous. I have teeth so sensitive that I once kicked a dentist accidentally (it was a reflex!) when she was attempting to scale my back teeth. If injections are necessary, I choose lidocaine rather than novocaine, as I’m so resistant to novocaine I also had the “I can feel everything” situation with my wisdom teeth removal… and wow did I scream. But with the lidocaine plus nitrous, I had a wonderful root canal experience, and never felt a thing.

    Oddly enough, I didn’t need nitrous or lidocaine when I got my 2nd crown on my 2nd bicuspid. Not sure why.

  55. For me it really depends on the procedure. For a procedure that’s relatively close to the surface, I’d much rather have to suffer through pain for a short amount of time if it means no numbness later, but if it’s anything that will take a while to do, or goes very deep, I’ll want the painkiller.

    Of course, there’s a bit of a gamble there. Last summer, I went to what I (and the dentist) thought would be a relatively easy removal of a crown (which was worn down) and declined painkillers. Then it was discovered that the crown essentially was hiding a fracture in a nearby tooth. I ended up with more than two hours of painkiller-less dental work. Not my favourite day.

  56. I always want the numbz-it. But I did have one instance when several applications of Lidocaine over a two hour period had no effect whatsoever. Finally, I told the dentist just to go ahead and drill away. I am sure I left dents in the armrests.

  57. Not only do I want to be numbed into oblivion, and want to be sedated so I don’t even know I’m sitting in the dentist’s chair. As my tolerance for pain is nonexistent, this is also a preferable situation for the dentist and his assistants… I tend to scream and flail when sudden pain presents itself to my person. I think the hygienists roll a 1d8 to see who gets the pleasure of listening to me whimper while they clean my teeth. (Did I mention I have zero tolerance for pain? Even cleanings hurt.)

  58. Novocain works for me.

    As an aside, my dentist never jabs me with the needle. In fact I’ve never felt her needle. Not once. She’s very slow and patient. She takes her time. The contrast with other dentists is considerable. It really is possible to do pain-free dentistry, which is why I keep going back to her.

  59. When I was a child, the drilling hurt like hell. Always. Even though I’d been given novacaine. My face would get numb about half an hour after I’d left the dentist’s office. I didn’t realize for many years that something was wrong here, that I wasn’t supposed to feel the drilling.

    I, uh, don’t go to that dentist anymore.

    So I’m all too familiar with the pain. Give me novacaine, and lots of it. I’ll live with the drool.

  60. I’ve never liked getting the Novocaine shots, but generally put up with them. A few times when it just wasn’t quite enough to deal with the pain (I tend to need fillings almost every appointment, it seems) I eventually refused and just endured, because the pain of the shot was worse. Still, I think I could probably endure the pain if it weren’t accompanied by bone-conducted horrid sounds and the smell of burning hair. At least the topical pre-numbers are helping a lot with the pain of the needle. I usually have to take the rest of the day off after an appointment because the Novocaine makes me a bit jittery.

    On the other hand, I dozed off during one root canal appointment and knit part of a multicolor sock during another. I also suggested to the endodontist that he put a flatscreen monitor on the ceiling with a video feed from the dental work being done, but he thought I would be the only patient interested in seeing that.

    The dentist who started using local pre-number really effectively was also my grandparents’ dentist, and he told me that neither of them ever took anesthetic. He also said that Grandpa had claimed never to brush his teeth, but my mom thinks that Grandpa was just having a joke on his dentist, because he had always been very emphatic about the need to brush at home. Possibly related to his actually missing his boat when he enlisted in the Merchant Marine near the end of WWII due to needing to have three weeks of dental work done first. I think by the time he actually got on ship the war was over.

  61. I have a bad combination of phobias with dentists in generall and pain killers close to my facial nerve in particular. As a professional musician (wind player) a damage of facial nerves would make me unable to play (as in make my living and to do thing that I live for), so I’m against pain killers (even though nerve damage is extremely unlikely it is a possible). On the other hand the drills, the pain and everything freak me out.
    I avoided the situation for quite a while by living in Switzerland (where all health insurance plans don’t cover anything with teeth, so I couldn’t afford to go anyway), but now I’m back in Germany (where it is completely covered except for weird extra charges of something like 30 € per filling and everybody has very lutheran work ethics about going to the dentist and do what they say), so I have to deal with it.
    I try to go without painkillers and when it gets too much I ask them to stop and give me some (being scared out of my mind for my future..)

    Question: do US health insurance plans cover dentists?
    In Germany they do and everybody finds it so weird that they don’t in Switzerland, in Switzerland everybody finds it so weird that they do in Germany (and then go somewhere over to France, Germany or Italy or (stragely enough) Hungary (dental tourism) to get they’re stuff done way cheaper than it would be in Switzerland…

  62. I prefer to avoid drugs, including painkillers that are not urgently necessary. I have minor fillings done with just music to de-emphasize the unpleasant sounds. I have no problem with needles, I’m a blood donor. For a crown that’s coming up, my dentist wishes to use a local, and I will allow it so as not to make his job harder. Hey, I’m not utterly fearless!

  63. These days I go for the shot but the technology has changed. When I was a kid my dentist was SO bad at giving novocaine shots that the numbing hurt more than the drilling – so I eventually told him not to bother.

    No question that the techniques have improved, so I’m perfectly fine with numbing nowadays and would not forego it.

  64. Novacaine and such gives me face tics and sometimes minor seizures. So if it’s not to the nerve I put on angry punk and ignore the minimal pain. I did get nitrous for wisdom teeth but it wore off halfway; that fucking hurt, but not bad enough to make me tell them to stop.

  65. I definitely like not losing conciousness / memory of what happened, so I’ve always gone with the local anesthetic. I personally haven’t minded the couple needle pricks for the novocaine, and you get to hear all the interesting noises as they work around in your mouth. I could definitely see people not liking that, though.

    My brother had a sedative hypnotic when he got his wisdom teeth out, and he literally couldn’t remember the 3 hours during and after the surgery. That makes me squirm a bit.

    On the other hand, as a kid I had to get a stitch at the top of my head (my brother and I were “jousting” down the hallway in big red laundry baskets, and I hit my head on a beam), and I got the “I can either numb it, which is two needle pricks, or just stitch it up, which will be one. Which do you prefer?” question from the doctor. I went with “just stitch it up”, and I can still remember gripping the table like mad and trying not to scream. Can’t really recommend it…

  66. My mother once asked me after I had a cavity filled: “Why do you always get that Novocain? That costs extra, you know!” I couldn’t imagine having a cavity filled without it. Even with it, having a tooth drilled sometimes makes pain shoot like a lightning bolt through my tooth. My mother, on the other hand, explained that she’d never had any anesthetic at the dentist except for extractions. The only time I saw her in any pain was when she was forced to get full dentures around age sixty or so, and the multiple extractions gave her grief for a week.

    I still always get numbed up, and because my teeth were moved a LOT by braces in my youth, sometimes they have to shoot me a up in a few places to try to get the right nerve. Quite unpleasant when they are wrong. I guess it takes all kinds.

  67. Pain don’t hurt — Dalton.

    That said, I look forward to the day there’s an app on my iPhone to turn me off. I’m thinking a Bluetooth connection to a chip embedded in my brain that shuts down my consciousness for a given period. It would be fairly desirable to have a metric boatload of encryption and digital signing, so that some passing hacker couldn’t do it as I drive by on I-66.

  68. I usually react really badly to the shots they use to numb you, leaving me sweating, shaking and seeing all kinds of spots and grey-outs, etc. So once I decided to have the dentist drill into one of my roots when getting it ready to have a new tooth fixed on top of it. The feeling of the drill hitting my gums was… exquisite.
    I take the shots now.

  69. I’ve tried the no-painkiller route twice. The first time it was at the dentist’s suggestion, and it worked just fine because the cavity was shallow enough that, while I could feel the pressure and there was some minor discomfort, it wasn’t painful. The second time they started drilling and I tried to hold out, but eventually I gave up and had them give me the shot because wow that hurt.

  70. I prefer to be in the next building when they’re drilling, but since that’s not an option, I go with numbing. My family did go to a dentist in Akron, Ohio, back in the early 70s who always offered the option of “no numbing.” My impression was that he could squeeze more patients in each day — with more $$$ — if he cut out the waiting for numbness time. A later dentist looked at some of this fellow’s handiwork and asked me in all seriousness what country I’d had that dental work done in.

  71. I used to have panic attacks when they gave me the injections, so I would just go without. But then a dentist mentioned they can use the numbing agent without the epinephrine in it. Now no palpitations/racing heart/panic. However the numbing doesn’t last as long that way.

  72. It depends on what I’m getting done. I’m sensitive to lidocaine so I need to balance being numb to relieve pain vs. vomiting for 6-8 hours afterwards. I usually stack dental procedures so they do it all and I get numbed all at once to reduce the issue. When I had cuts and issues that required ER stitching I just had them do it without numbing usually (one bored doc took the time to figure out what I was sensitive to and found a numbing thing that worked without the vomiting once, but I forgot to get the name of it so I can request it later).

    My mom had an emergency root canal and her face was numb and partially paralyzed for about 6 months after. The doctor and her dentist (not the one that did the procedure) said the lidocaine injection was probably in her nerve, it happens, and there was nothing to be done. She was lucky it wore off eventually, they told her there was a chance it would be permanent. If I was her after experiencing that I’d probably try dental work sans numbing.

  73. Deep cavities and root canals: bring on the syringe! Shallow cavities: bring on the pain! Whatever it is they use tends to leave me shaky and nauseated for the rest of the day, so if I can sit through the procedure without twitching every time the drill touches my teeth, that’s what I prefer. The sting of the needle doesn’t bother me that much.

    Nitrous and general anesthetic aren’t used that often in my country, only in specialized clinics.

    My family has a lineage of terrible teeth and paralyzing fear of dentists. I’m glad I only inherited one, even though I’d have prefered to inherit the fear instead of the fragile teeth.

  74. I also was at the dentist and had 4 cavities filled, 3 one day and 1 the very next day. My anatomy is different and freezing doesn’t always work the way it should but I still couldn’t imagine having to go through a filling without freezing…that’s just NUTS!

  75. I… I can’t even begin to comprehend that. I have such a severe phobia of dental proceedings that the idea of any sort of work done without anesthetic of any sort has legitimately raised my pulse rate in fear.

  76. My pain tolerance is so low that my dental health is at third-world levels. Of course, the fact that dental work is not covered by insurance in this country doesn’t help.

  77. For exactly the reasons in your blog post, I never have pain relief. Yes, when the dentist hits the nerve it hurts intensly – for an eighth of a second, and then it stops. So much better than drooling, numb face and not being able to eat for four hours.

  78. On the fillings I’ve gotten I wasn’t offered anything, and didn’t feel like I needed it. On longer procedures I’ll take the needle anytime, although I’ve always found the worst part has been jaw soreness from keeping my mouth open as wide as possible.

  79. when I had a root canal done, I had to have Novocain, I had been dealing with enough pain for long enough, I just wanted it to end. and I got a gold tooth out of the deal.

  80. Definitely numb, except maybe for really shallow cavities.
    (I think I could stand going without as long as modern high speed drills are used, even though it’d be pretty unpleasant. I grew up in a place and at a time where Novocaine was unheard of for regular fillings, and drills were slow (which make the vibration and overall feeling much more unpleasant), so was quite glad to find out numbing was an option, and never looked back :)

  81. Considering how much things sometime hurt AFTER the procedure is over and the novocaine has worn off, I don’t even want to imagine what it would be like to sit THROUGH the procedure without novocaine!

  82. I am afraid of needles, resistant to Novocain, and have had so much dental work my mouth is half-machine. Pain-killers all the way. Even though sometimes I start crying when the 2nd dose of Novocain comes (can’t feel it, just knowing the needle is there is too much).

  83. As someone who feels no significant effect from novocaine, I don’t know how anyone could handle the pain of drilling without some sort of I medication. Because novocaine doesn’t numb the pain, I usually get laughing gas. It doesn’t so much numb the pain, as it makes you not really care about the pain.

    It is one reason that I hate going to a new dentist. They never believe me about the novocaine, until they start drilling and find my hands around their throat.

  84. For me… please make me numb! I too had a childhood dentist that did not give novocaine (I never knew why) and I had a lot of cavities, so I know what it feels like to have a tooth drilled without it. NOT doing that again. I have no use for nitrous oxide, though. Once a dentist found two small cavities behind my front teeth. Since there was no way to inject novocaine to get numbness there, he used the gas. Worst pain of my life (to that point)! I just could not summon the will to complain. Decades later, I discovered that even the suggestion of using the gas for a dental procedure can trigger a panic attack. So needles it is! Although for one root canal, the infection under the tooth was so bad, that he opened it up, put something that smelled like bleach inside, and set me home with the most wonderful oral painkiller.

    I did once have a tooth drilled as an adult without numbing. The tooth had already had a root canal so there was nothing there to hurt. Weird, though.

  85. Knock me out, thanks! I have a bit of dentist phobia, thanks to my first encounter EVER with a dentist at 13 resulting in a root canal. So yeah. Full sedation, if at all possible. I’d rather go to sleep and then wake up with whatever work done, than have to be aware of a stranger that close to me, and feeling all those tools in my mouth like I’m a car being worked on! (It probably doesn’t help, I have lousy teeth genetically. My grandfather had dentures before he was 40, and I seemed to get his genes)

  86. Wow, lots of comments….personally, I have to be numbed, but the thing I hate about it is that I can’t feel anything for hours afterward, and if I have something to eat, I don’t feel any pain if I accidentally bite the side of my mouth, and invariably, I do bite the side of my mouth when I’m numbed up. Had a root canal done and the dentist gave me two different anesthetics, the regular stuff they use for filling teeth, and then one that was even more powerful, lasted 3 times longer, and made my face feel like it were made of really “silly” Silly Putty. When I was in the Navy, the dental officer on our ship never used a topical anesthetic before he injected the novocaine. He would grab the cheek and kind of pinch and shake it, (like your old aunt would do at Christmas time and ask if you were a good boy). My supervisor refused to allow him to use the novocaine, and I asked him why. He told me for the same reasons I gave about biting the side of my mouth. He said he’d rather take a short burst of intense pain than the lingering pain of having bitten the side of his mouth and waiting for that to heal. It seems once you bite the side of your mouth, it swells up, and you bite it again and again…..not pleasant, and it delays the healing process. “I know not what others may do, but as for me, give me novocaine!”

  87. If it’s a pit-cavity (nowhere near the nerve) or a tiny cavity that will be a whole 3-5 seconds of pain, then no painkillers. Crowns, however, require industrial strength numbing.

  88. I like to be numbed, but after having 13 teeth pulled, not all of the stuff works on me anymore. If you can’t pull through, I recommend it, but most people (including me) can’t.

  89. I tried going unanesthetized once. Last time, it took two shots of local. It turned out that speaking to the dentist while numb and drooly was good practice for speaking during a transient ischemic attack.

  90. Depends on how deep the cavity is. I do have a high pain tolerance, but I’m also a rapid acetylator so the novocaine wears off quickly and I’ve discovered that asking for more mid procedure usually hurts more and doesn’t really have an effect. Plus, my gums are sore for about 2 days afterward. If it isn’t too deep, I’ll just have some nitrous but if it is deep, I get the shots.

    When I was 17, I had to get the first of many surgeries for an implant (was born without 2 of my front teeth). The surgeon had said he was just going to shape my jawbone a bit and my mother wouldn’t let them knock me out because she thought I might get sick from the anesthetic. What he actually did was chisel off a piece of my jawbone and then screw it back on, packing the space with powdered bone. And yes, the novocaine wore off halfway through. Fun times! And, the codeine he prescribed made me throw up for 2 days.

    The best dental anesthetic I ever had I only got once. My dentist put these stickers on my cheeks and gave me a little box with a dial. Electric current ran through the stickers and disrupted the nerve signals. If it started to hurt, I could just turn up the dial. I did have to turn it up pretty high (half my face was twitching uncontrollably which was weird), but it didn’t hurt, the drilling didn’t hurt, and when I turned it off, everything was back to normal. I wish more dentists would use that.

  91. I prefer Novocaine. I have a high pain tolerance, perhaps too high, for most things. But teeth, so close to the brain, somehow are a different story.

  92. I’m actually have a tooth and root extraction tomorrow and want to be numb, numb, numb. I am a total wuss with this kind thing. I really hate pain medication but I hope he gives me something a little bit stronger than ibuprofin.

  93. Numb it up, doc! I don’t mind needles, novacaine works GREAT on me, and I’m highly allergic to pain. I spent an hour in the chair on Monday, and the hardest part was staying awake. BTW, I have a GREAT dentist.

  94. I have a high tolerance for pain (earned as a child through 1st-3rd degree burns, compound fractures, and all the surgeries to correct them). But that doesn’t mean that I actually want to experience ANY pain, ever. I had a dentist that gave nitrous for regular cleanings. Loved it. I want all the drugs it is possible to give. If I could get the drugs I got for my colonoscopy for dental work I’d be all for it.

  95. I’m a mixed bag. The first time I had a cavity filled was when the dentist discovered that the plastic painted over a couple of molar crevasses had failed, and I had cavities developing under it. I asked if i could forego the novocaine, and was reasonably good until I started feeling the drill heating up. The dentist made the mistake of showing me the large excavation he had already made and telling me “We still have a bit to go!” At that point I requested the shot. If I can get away without it, though, I will; I don’t like needles, and have found many dentists are a little ham-handed with them.

    I had a deep tooth cleaning, because the hygienist told me I had a spot of tartar too deep to be reached during routine cleaning. The topical anesthetic didn’t take, and I twitched the first time she poked the root. Not fun. Normally, when they prod around for cleanings, I think about what they’re doing as if they were working on a piece of jewelry (I took several courses in jewelrysmithing in college. A lot of the equipment looks and acts exactly the same.)

  96. I think I am seeing a pattern in childhood dentistry here, (not to mention an amazing range of pain tolerance).

    I have talked to a friend who is a dentist, and she says she has quite a few patients with issues around dentists due to their childhood dentistry. My childhood dentist used painkiller, but was neither accurate nor gentle administering it, so it hurt anyway, and he didn’t believe me when I told him. So, when I was a teenager, I got cavities filled (twice) without anesthetic. Those experiences are my personal “10” on the 1 to 10 pain scale. Bilateral tibia stress fractures are better, marginally.

    I had impacted wisdom teeth, for which was put under. Whatever the drug was, I have never had anything like it since, and coming out of it was deeply strange experience. I spent most of an hour watching the hands on the analogue clock in the recovery room, not knowing what it was, and unaware of the existence of words.

    My current dentist rubs the needle site with local, then uses a small needle to numb the area, and then the novacaine. The needle site hurts like a bruise for the rest of the day, and the vibration of the drill is a white knuckle level of unpleasant, but that is a big improvement over “10”. I am pretty sure there is a note on my chart (“has “issues””).

    Lichtstrom, you can get prescription de-sensitizing toothpaste, which I find helps some if I use it regularly. I don’t like getting my teeth scaled, either.

    Robin, the video is a totally cool idea!

    Some people had interesting stories about other anesthetics. Maybe the next question could be about anesthetic experiences more generally.

  97. Also I wonder if some folx are confusing “tolerance” & threshold. I have a high pain *tolerance* (I literally can tolerate being in an enormous amount of pain), but I have a low pain *threshold* (I am sensitive & stimuli becomes painful quickly).

  98. For minor fillings, I do them without any pain killers or anesthetic. I used to ask for a small dose of nitrous when I was younger, but nothing now. I had a very, very bad experience with needles in my gums when I was younger and it causes me to become extremely anxious. I can tolerate them if I absolutely have to, but it’s a nerve wracking, rip the arm rests off the seat kind of experience I prefer to avoid. The worst part of all of it for me is the sound, which I get either way.

  99. In 1997, after returning from a rather long deployment, I saw an Army dentist in residence. Before we left I had a small cavity that needed a filling on the left side of my upper jaw. By the time I got back in the states and the clinic could see me, I guess it had gotten a little bigger. Without first reshooting x-rays of the area the dentist dug into the tooth with a nice sharp drill, pushing as he went along. I was fine until he pushed hard and hit the nerve. At this point I bellowed, oral damn still in place, and flailed around. The assistant screamed and ran out of the room. The resident dropped the drill and ran behind a try. Needless to say it hurt an amazing amount.

    Since then the amount of anxiety I have to deal with when visiting the dentist makes anything short of complete sedation a real wall. I’m better now, I can visit dentists who use gas, don’t mind injecting my face until it sags on my jaw, and who love the fact that I’m going to plug my head into music or a good book for the duration of even the most cursory procedures.

  100. I’ve had two teeth removed about two years ago now (happened in 2013). The first one had a weird hooked root, which meant the dentist had to pull out the “hardware store” end of the dental toolkit – pliers, saw to section the tooth, etc. The second one had pretty much shattered, and there wasn’t much to grip, so it needed special handling too. I had ALL the needles and the numbing, because this was the government dental clinic’s walk-in emergency section and you take what you’re given there.

    I’ve also had a wisdom tooth removed under local anaesthetic (upper left side), which was sorta fun, too (for slightly twisted values of fun) – damn near dislocated my jaw getting things widened up enough to let them in, but the dentist was rather surprised I could do it.

    To be honest, I find the actual procedure once the needles are done and I’m numbed up isn’t too bad. The worst of it for me is when the blasted stuff wears off, and I have to deal with things like the way my neck tensed up, the muscular aches and pains from the amount of physical force required to remove teeth, and oh yeah, the nerves suddenly realising they’re able to see daylight, and THAT IS NOT HOW IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE, GODSDAMNIT!!!!

    At which point, pass the Neurofen (ibuprofen), and let me sit somewhere quiet on my own until the pain dies down a bit. Alternatively, you can bother me until I decide to share my pain around (approximate fuse length – 0.001 microns).

  101. For over a decade, I thought I was allergic to Novocaine. (It turned out to be totally not true, but that’s another story.) So I insisted on not having painkillers because, you know, the potential death and all.

    I don’t think I’ve suffered any permanent trauma from that. OTOH, ever since a horrible hygienist squirted water into my airway and sent me into a panic attack and then fled the scene, I have to be on Xanax to make it through ANY dentist’s door.

  102. I have this genetic thing called malignant hyperthermia. Short version: some muscle relaxants and anesthesias will set off a hyperthermic reaction in my muscles (including intercostals and heart). Humorous side note: the fainting goats have a similar condition. When I was a kid, and newly diagnosed, my dentist was afraid to use any kind of pain medication on my at all. I had cavities. *shudders*
    These days, though I dislike needles, I understand why they’re necessary. I also understand the value of a dentist who’s willing to do a little research and figure out the safe medications to use. Mind you, I haven’t had any toothy issues as an adult. I think the early experience helped to improve my dedication to dental health ;)

  103. Unconscious all the way. In addition to having had a bad experience as a child with a dentist who should never have had kids in his practice, I tend to be a gagger and the injection in the arm is best for both of us.

  104. I hate novocaine shots, and when I was in high school and had to have a filling (after many years of orthodontia and a few mouth surgeries) I asked my dentist to please drill without. He suggested nitrous oxide and then novocaine. That got me through the shot and I ended up having it done once more later. If I had to have more dental work, I’d opt for nitrous/novocaine again.

    However, when I broke my little toe (and this was a gross break – it was at a right angle from the rest of my foot), couldn’t really stand the idea of having to get a novocaine shot on top of everything else. I told the ER doctor to just set it without anything. It took about 3 or 4 minutes for him to twist and manipulate the toe back into alignment. I’d just had a baby three months earlier and I was surprised at how annoying that pain was. But afterword, I was glad of my choice, and the doctor confided that he probably would have made the same choice in that case.

  105. My family has an unfortunate tendency to hang onto baby teeth. I had all of mine extracted except the two I managed to shed some other way. Back then, dentists — at least mine — didn’t use topical anesthetic before poking you. I ended up with a needle phobia that took years to shed, but now, I’m just glad for the topical. (My daughters, cursed with the same genes, have had nitrous as well as the injected anesthetic, and it’s been a godsend.) I don’t really mind the numbness — I find it an intriguing experience, if a bit too prolonged.

    I have had one colonoscopy with no sedation of any kind, and two with some kind of sedative/painkiller but no Versid. (My memory is bad enough without teaching it the trick of forgetting pain as soon as it happens.)

  106. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, having lived with a lot of it for much of my adult life, but I still want Novocaine for any dental work beyond a cleaning. And for extractions and other forms of oral surgery, I want to be unconscious. I don’t particularly enjoy needles, and nobody likes having a droopy numb face for half the day, but I find both of those preferable to dental work without anesthesia of some sort.

  107. I dislike the numbing, and as a teen I had cavities filled without. I don’t recall it being particularly painful. At the time I asked the dentist if he thought it was necessary given how much I hated the recovery period from numbing and he said probably not, so I relied on the dentist to let me know if he thought the Novocaine was really needed for whatever was being done.

    More recently I’ve been having to have old fillings taken out and replaced with new. I’ve not yet explored with the current dentist how open he would be to omitting Novocaine. Perhaps I’ve grown more tolerant of the numbing. I did have one awful set of filling replacements where the numbing did not work, I could feel the drilling and flinched. Which prompted injecting more Novocaine…more than once this happened during that procedure. After it, my jaw ached for days and I wondered if doing without Novocaine at all or telling the dentist to just continue on never mind my flinching despite supposedly being numb would have been better….

  108. Novocaine, please. And if they could give me something to drown out the high-pitched sound of the equipment too, that would be good. (I swear, the drill even sounds painful.

  109. I don’t have a problem with that, but a few years ago I had sinus surgery (very painful) and was put on what is called Okie Opium (can’t remember the real name oxy…something I think). Anyway, it was so much worse than the pain (irrational mood swings and such) that I quit using it almost immediately and just put up with the pain.

    I don’t see how people get hooked on the stuff.

  110. I prefer to be out cold, if possible.

    But the thing is, I know a woman who’s been roofied, and I also know that you do (very occasionally) get bad apples in the medical professions, and it is not unknown for those bad apples to take advantage of women who are under anesthesia of one form or another, so I understand why someone might not want to take that chance.

  111. Double gas to relax me, then triple novocain for the drilling. I have excessive facial nerves and also a low pain tolerance.

  112. Varies by procedure for me. If they aren’t going anywhere near nerves I’d rather not have the needle plus facial numbness plus queasiness. If it’s gonna hit the nerve then I’ll have the needle thanks. So really it depends on how deep they are drilling. I have a habit of throwing up after anesthetic so if I can avoid it I will.

  113. I used just Novocaine for my first cavities (high school and college, hometown dentist). Then when I had a tooth shatter a few years ago, my new LA dentist laughingly suggested nitrous (“you know, like for kids”). I’d never had sedation of any sort, and he was surprised when I immediately took him up on his offer.

    Turns out I have big ol’ powerful lungs. The volume of air I can inhale over a period of time is more than standard nitrous tanks he uses can accommodate. But it does eventually do the trick, and it makes going to the dentist fun!

    When I’m in the chair on the tank I think too much. A snippet of music and dialogue from Bee Movie playing in the dentist’s office reminds me of a level in Metroid, which reminds me of a half-forgotten alternative song, which reminds me of the Golden Rectangle, which leads me to fractals.

    I often end up pondering the nature of the universe in a Cartesian manner, examining the dichotomy between the self and the other, the purpose and the random, the slave and the master. I often reach terrifying conclusions that the universe is random, that all consciousness is accidental and precious, and I’m abusing my gift by using anesthesia. How in the world can people take nitrous as a party drug?

    (portions of this comment were re-posted from metafilter)

  114. I had a dentist in college who asked me whether I wanted the novocaine, and I said no, probably to show off.

    This could be unrelated, but all the fillings he did subsequently fell out.

    So when my current dentist asked me, I said I thought he’d do a better job if I was numbed.

  115. No painkillers for me. I don’t say this because I have a high pain tolerance or have philosophical problems with them. I just find the prick and numbing sensation much more unpleasant than the pain.

    I had painkillers when my wisdom teeth came out, and would do so again, but I ended up almost biting a hole in my lip because I couldn’t feel it.

    My( dentist thinks I’m crazy, incidentally.)

  116. I can go either way, depending on the procedure. Absolute no to general or nitrous. I normally get nothing unless heavy dentistry is involved. I feel a normal level of pain, but I guess I have a high level of accepting it.

  117. Ugh! I read all these thinky bits and now I’m gonna have nightmares. Thanks for all the descriptive notes on tooth and bone cracking noises folks!

    Numb, definitely. Any way you can get me there.

  118. In a stunning coincidence, I had dental work done today. As I had neglected my teeth during grad school — I brushed, but didn’t go to the dentist regularly — I have had to get a lot of work done*. Multiple appointments’ worth.

    I had a topical anesthetic, then a needle. It took care of about 90% of the pain — I occasionally felt pain as the dentist drilled, especially near the end. I could imagine not using the needle if I had only minor work**, but it does seem to do the job. That and it keeps me still(er). I don’t want to think about me moving around while there’s a drill in my mouth.

    I could still feel the needle going in, despite the topical, but it was no worse than a normal ‘there is something sharp scraping my mouth… okay, better now!’. I suspect that is why I want the extra numbing. I am a wimp when it comes to pain.

    * Nothing major, like a root canal, but a lot of fillings.
    ** I did once have a filling without a local anesthetic, as the dentist thought it was shallow enough that the pain would be short and mild. The dentist was right.

  119. My childhood dentist was horrible with the needle and at 14 and needing a molar drilled and filled, I rebelled, no novocaine. The drilling was mostly more weird than painful. There were a few brief sharp pains as he tamped in the filling. I had a bruise on my jaw from the dentist gripping it, apparently he thought I’d jerk away.

    I now go to a great dentist, who’s slow and gentle with the needle and I wouldn’t think of skipping it under normal conditions, though I wouldn’t dread going without if there was some rational reason.

  120. Yeah I’ll be numbed first. I don’t need to be sedated anymore, but there was a time I did for a while after a Pretty Bad Experience which caused me to change dentists, but I got over it.

  121. Numb all the way – and a skilled dental injection is usually almost painless. I’d much rather get the sting over with and be still and calm during the procedure than spend the whole thing anticipating sudden pain and go home with muscle knots on my muscle knots.

    but I’m a bit weirdly pro-numbing – have also had a breast lump out under local anaesthetic, a foot bone procedure done under nerve block, and an upper GI endoscopy done with throat numbing spray but no sedative. Not because I’m super macho and tough, but because I had shit to do, and/or GAs disagree with me.

  122. Novacaine – but it’s normally used with epinepherine to contract the blood vessels and lengthen the effect. I can’t do that. Epinepherine causes my heart to race and my blood pressure to spike and I shiver as if I’m extremely cold.. I feel terrified because of the physical reactions, even though my mind is going “hunh? I’m not scared, what is this.” There’s a whole related class of drugs Aminophyllin, etc that do this to me, as well as whole classes of bronchodialators like Albuterol.

    So numb, but not actual anesthesia. On the other hand I’m almost sixty and have had 1 root canal, one wisdom tooth removed and maybe five cavities ever. If I’d had more dental work I might feel differently.

  123. i’m a needlephobe. i just had two fillings done yesterday, no novocaine. otoh, for my wisdom teeth, they knocked me out with anaesthetic, so it’s not that i’m longing for the pain. and it’s certainly not that it doesn’t hurt.

  124. When I was younger and my teeth not quite so bad I went without the painkillers — the cavities were small and easy to get at, so the drill barely touched the sensitive part, not even a minute of chair-gripping pain and it was done. Now that my teeth are bad (with several crowns) it’s considerably more work and pain, and I always opt for the shot (and sometimes it takes two to fully numb a tooth on the top).

  125. I’ve only had one filling in an adult tooth (only one in a baby tooth) but the cavity in my adult tooth was huge. Like 3/4 of the crown came off all at once, which meant the nerve was hanging out. That was back in 1999 when I was nineteen and things were different. Back then it was just shots into your gums to numb them. I didn’t have a choice then. But it wasn’t back. The shots really didn’t hurt. Just this year, the ‘Methuselah Filling’ as I named it, was finally replaced with a gold crown. I didn’t have a choice in the painkillers then either, not with a nerve involved. But this time, they rubbed numbing stuff on my gums before I ever got a shot, so I literally felt nothing from start to finish.

    If I had to have smaller procedures, and was given a choice, I’d still get the painkillers. I’m tough, but when there are perfectly reasonable options to avoid pain (and zero chance of addiction) why not avoid it? There are plenty of chances to endure pain nobly without adding dentistry to it. Which is not to say that people who choose to avoid needles are silly. Each to their own :)

  126. I hate Novocaine and avoid it when practical. If the filling is deep, though, I’ll ask for the lowest possible dose. I’ve had times when I stayed numb for 4-5 hours after leaving the dentist. Not fun.

  127. Lidocaine for drilling, please, or if I need an extraction. No painkiller for cleanings, because I don’t like waiting for the numbness to wear off afterwards.

    I’ve had one wisdom tooth out, in my regular dentist’s office, with just the lidocaine. He offered to send me to an oral surgeon, but I trusted Dr. Mahindra and the oral surgeon would have been an unknown. (I’d consider nitrous instead, if I went to a dentist who offered it, because it wears off a lot faster; needles don’t bother me.)

  128. I have been ridiculously fortunate: three fillings (I think), and I’m well into middle age; no crowns or root canals. However, I am in the camp of “low pain threshold, high Novocaine tolerance.” Half a lifetime ago I needed all four wisdom teeth (two, I think, impacted) removed at once. After the fourteenth shot of Novocaine, the dentist asked, “can you feel this?” and I said, “yes, but for God’s sake no more shots, just get it over with.” I’d rather deal with the drill at this point. Never been offered nitrous oxide, but given the chance I’ll take it and hope.

  129. I have what I am told is a ridiculously high pain tolerance, and even I beg for Novocain at the dentist. Of course, that is as far as my painkiller use goes. I had a full knee replacement in 2007 and still have constant pain, but don’t take anything stronger than Aleve or Advil for it. And then, I only take those when the pain is what I consider extreme.

    For me, the main concern against painkillers is allergy related. Vicodin, Codeine, and Percocet all make me very ill, so I have a very limited amount of pain killers I can actually take.

    I have no idea why a person would choose to be in pain if they didn’t need to be. My only idea would be along the lines of addiction, or the prevention of addiction.

  130. I’m sensitive to almost all anaesthesia and sedatives. Something that is supposed to knock me out for an hour will make me solidly unconscious for three and then I will spend the rest of the day throwing up. I regularly take half the adult dose of OTC painkillers with, as far as I can tell, the same effect (in both degree of relief and duration). And I would still choose anaesthesia if I needed a serious dental procedure. I had some rather horrible dental experiences as an adolescent, and now I am not fond of dentists at all. Fortunately for me the dilemma seems to be moot: I haven’t needed anything done to my tèeth since I had my wisdom teeth out more than 20 years ago.

  131. For the removal of my wisdom teeth? Novocaine shots into the gums and an ipod of Gnarls Barkley tunes turned up full blast. Only way to go.

  132. I want to be numbed up into oblivion.
    I find being at the dentist so unpleasant that the more I can ignore about the experience, the better. I have a pretty high pain threshold and good pain tolerance, so I can stand other medical procedures pretty well without novocaine, but not at the dentist. Nope.

  133. Apparently my nerves aren’t in quite the usual place. I’d had lots of dental work as a kid with shots and still made a huge fuss. I was well into my 40’s when I found a dentist that actually got the shot in the right place. No wonder I used to fuss.

  134. I’ve had some of my teeth drilled without anaesthetic – mostly because the teeth concerned have been nerveless/dead for upwards of ten years – and while I wouldn’t describe it as pleasant, it didn’t hurt. What it DID do, however, was startle the everloving crap out of me the first time he touched a tooth with the drill because the moron didn’t even think to warn me he was about to switch to working on them (I was having three teeth done – the third one required numbing, and that had been where he’d started). Once I’d peeled myself off the ceiling, it was okay – but very much not something I’d actively choose.

  135. My old dentist in Canada used electronic dental anaesthesia for many fillings. A little weird and sometimes my face was a bit twitchy, but there was no pain and no needles. Highly recommended, though I’ve not found a dentist who does it here in Dubai.

    My Valium and Laughing gas based wisdom tooth extraction on the other hand was a COMPLETE BLAST, to the point where I asked the dental surgeon for a mirror so I could watch the festivities. He was a touch taken aback, and (sadly) no mirror was to hand.

  136. I prefer the numbing and pain killers. Too bad neither work for me. Which, unfortunately, means that the couple dozen cavities I’ve had filled over the years as well as broken bones reset were not a lot of fun. Too bad (for me, of course) the medical professionals refused to believe me when I told them local anaesthetics and pain killers don’t work on me.

  137. Drilling? So 20th century… Go to a modern dentist who uses laser instead of drills. No anesthetic, in and out quickly.

  138. I need to be numbed up into oblivion… I can’t stand it! Going to the dentist is horrible enough that the last thing I need is to feel pain!

    Pain is not an emotion I particularly like… I avoid it at all costs.

  139. I’ve done both without and with, but it definitely depends on the procedure and the state of the tooth. I have a dud tooth which, after they did the root canal and it was well and truly dead, the dentist continued without anesthesia, and it was not horrible. But if there’s going to be real pain. Pass the novocaine please!

  140. I’ve had a filling put in without painkillers when I was younger and my intense phobia of needles was stronger.

    Specificially needle piercing my skin causes the blood in my extremities to reduce, I’ve a tendency to pass out. It’s got better after I had to have blood tests every week for three months.

    The root canal work I had last time was numbed up. But I’m still not a fan.

  141. I’d rather have the discomfort early and not cause damage from flinching while the drill is going. Otherwise the pain is probably equal. Ish.

  142. Hooray, some other people that are sensitive to lidocaine!

    I get tired of telling dentists it’s not a fear of needles. My reaction to needles in my mouth is the same as everyone else’s – I don’t like it, so get the damn thing over with now. My reaction to lidocaine is nausea, vomiting, and blood pressure drop. I’ll take needles over that.

    Actually I’ve been told that it’s the epinephrine chaser that makes lidocaine nasty for me. Carbocaine, which does not have added epinephrine, works fine, but it isn’t as strong so I need more shots of it.

  143. In the UK dentistry is not free, so not having money to pay for a dentist to remove a bad and broken tooth in the side of my mouth, recently, I removed it myself. It was a fairly painful and bloody affair, but bearable. I’ve also been to the dentist in the past, had the injection and there hasn’t been enough pain relief, but told the guy to carry on. White knuckles and sweat patches on his vinyl seat were the order of the day. Pain tolerance can be raised in any individual at certain times, after all women giving birth go through utter agony, even on pain relief, and not every woman starts out with a high tolerance for pain.

  144. I had the lidocaine injection hit a nerve one time, which resulted in a very strange shock sensation followed by six months in which I was unable to taste any flavor except salty on the right side of my tongue, which also had a persistent pins-and-needles sensation. It was terrible: all food tasted 50% less tasty but extremely over-salted. This is a known low-probability risk of injected local anesthetics (you sign a thing acknowledging it) and although I eventually recovered, it is possible for the effect to be permanent.

    I still get numbed when I get drilled because I understand how probability works, but it makes me nervous bordering on panicky, and if they don’t inject enough the first time (which is fairly common for me for some reason) I have been known to just put up with the pain, because in the moment it seems preferable to doubling down on my chance for that to happen again.

  145. Numb. The pain of having one’s teeth drilled without anesthetic is absolutely intolerable and the worst pain I have ever encountered. It’s exquisite in the worst possible way. I have had the joy of dentists who didn’t know how to properly numb, and I’m sorry, but that is frigging HELL. Those people who don’t want to be numbed are masochists.

  146. One of those times, btw, was for a crown, and the dentist actually broke my frigging molar in half. Try that without benefit of anesthesia. That was the longest 3 hours of my life. Two crowns, side by side, and I was never numb. I spent the entire time with tears rolling into my hair and a death grip on the arms of the chair, and that is why I have to be in extreme pain to even think about visiting the dentist.

  147. Just the Novocaine is usually sufficient. Except for the root canal that was done. All of my wisdom tooth removals combined were an absolute cake-walk in comparison.

  148. I need extra numbing. I could feel everything with the standard numbing, and my dentist stopped, numbed / needled again, waited for 15 minutes and then continued on.

    Not a fan of the dentist but a big fan of MY dentist. She’s awesome.

  149. When I get my teeth cleaned, my dentist’s hygienist always offers a topical anesthetic gel, and I always accept. For drilling teeth or anything more invasive, my first choice would probably be anesthesia, but I’d ask the dentist for his recommendation. (Anything beyond cleaning is theoretical for me, because I must have hit some sort of dental lottery; at almost 44 years old, I’ve escaped any dental work aside from a composite veneer over a badly chipped incisor … which turned out not to need any anesthetic at all.)

  150. I have had a filling done without anaesthesia or pain killers. It mostly didn’t hurt that much at all, and at that very briefly. I’d probably do it that way again. I am rather terrified of having needles stuck in my mouth, and dental anaesthesia leaves your mouth only semi-functional for a while (the reason for the choice being it was my *birthday* and we were going out for expensive food… the filling was a present, dental treatment doesn’t come cheap).

  151. I’m one of those folks who doesn’t do the numbing or gas. This works for me for several reasons:
    1.) The sound of drilling doesn’t bother me.
    2.) I’m blessed with good teeth that are not unusually sensitive.
    3.) Yes, it hurts, but it’s within my tolerance level.
    4.) This is the biggie – it’s 15 minutes less time in the office and once the work is done, it’s over. There is no bruising at the injection site (or risk of infection, or risk of hitting a nerve).

    That being said, for wisdom teeth removal, I took the shots :-)

  152. Is this even a question??? I’d have them knock me out completely if I could! When I had my wisdom teeth out, I was out cold, and I think that was one of the best decisions I ever made. The less I can feel when at the dentist’s office, the better!

  153. I’ve only had one filling done as an adult, but they didn’t ask. I’m not sure if I would have said no or not. Getting teeth drilled is pretty darn awful, but I have a permanent retainer that keeps breaking so I spend a fair amount of time at the orthodonist getting the extra cement ground off, which gets pretty close. In the last filling I probably got 4+ gum jabs and literally the entire right half of my face was numb–up to my hairline, for something like 8 hours. Having my eyelid numb, in particular, was a highly disagreeable sensation and given the totality of the experience I might have chosen to take 5 minutes of pain over the neverending numbness.

    But I experienced 2 unmedicated (but fast) childbirths, so my cost/benefit analysis on discomfort might be different than others.

  154. If there was a way to make it impossible to hear the sound of the drill, I might be able to stand it, but not sure. The anticipation of the pain would probably be worse than the actual sensation, but I would rather not know. Needle please.

  155. Procedure dependent. I have a deep distaste for needles but will overcome it for root canals, extractions and surgical procedures. The normal stuff (fillings, etc.) just requires a firm grip on the arms of the chair. Needle avoidance is the primary motivator, skipping the half-dead face is a collateral benefit.

  156. LaSolMiFaRe: Generally, health insurance in the US doesn’t cover regular dentistry, but will cover things like oral surgery. Folks either get separate dental coverage, or pay out of pocket.
    (There are some exceptions. Some health insurance plans will cover dentistry for kids up to a certain age, for example)

  157. First, nitrous oxide. Let it percolate for a while, till you get a slight buzz. Then, a cotton swab of local anesthesia in gel form. rub it on the gum, and for the love of god, don’t wipe it off with your tongue. give that a minute to take effect. Then a shot of novacaine. If the first two bits did their job, you won’t feel it at all. Let that take effect, then shoot me up all over.

    And if its a bad procedure, take some tylenol or something as you leave.

    I had a root canal once, they were working on me for a long time and I didn’t feel a thing. Then they stopped and said they wanted me to come back later for the second half. I asked why split it up. and they said to give me some rest. So, I came back a couple days later, and they could not repeat the anesthesia, so I ended up feeling everything. I was tensed up for what felt like an hour, trying not to jerk my head or bite the dentist. I had a sore neck and back and was sweating by the time they were done.

    So, if on the off chance you are having a root canal and you can’t feel anything, don’t let them stop. finish the job.

  158. As a young adult I had a tremendous fear of needles. For my first major filling, I refused Novocaine. It was kind of a deep filling, actually. That was enough to convince me that I need all the Novocaine forever and always. Novocaine is our dear and gracious friend.

  159. I’d rather be unconscious, if it were possible. Since it’s not, I’ll settle for as much Novocaine as they can legally inject in me.

    NOTE: I have sensitive teeth. I need Novocaine when I just go in for a cleaning.

  160. I have very high pain tolerance and as a rule I don’t like to take painkillers. Dental pain has an emotional component that I find absolutely intolerable. I had two unmedicated births, because the pain was preferable to the risks of an epidural. The risk of partial facial paralysis, for me, is more acceptable than dental pain. Every time.

  161. If the cavity is small, no needle please. As others mentioned if the dentist slows down the drill it doesn’t hurt (at least not to me). Moderate cavities or more, yes, I’ll take the needle. I’ll hate it because it hurts like the blazes but I will deal.

  162. I’m needle phobic and _definitely_ the novocaine.
    On why some people may refuse any painkiller? I knew a recovering addict who would not take aspirin – no pills of any kind. A trigger word sort of thing.
    For the exposed root people. Get some sensitive teeth tooth paste and put a dab of it on the root at bedtime. It isn’t as quick as Anbesol but over time does decrease the sensitivity.
    I’ve heard good things about using a dental sealant to _cure_ sensitive teeth (but nothing about sealant on exposed root).
    And three cheers for the ultra thin needles – So small that I feel a push and nothing else.

  163. Could I borrow a threep while the rest of me visits the dentist? I’m in the “a shot every 10 minutes or I feel every slight movement of the drill and you’ll be scraping me off the ceiling” category, and my dentist has learned to gauge my discomfort by how fast and hard my fingers are pounding on the armrests.

  164. Going in for three procedures this month. Drugs and more drugs, please. (This is three procedures in one day- Redoing 2 ancient fillings and a new one.)

  165. If it’s a surface cavity I’m fine without numbing but if dentist is going to get near the nerve then numb me up! I don’t really care about the needle, I just hate that numb feeling.

  166. I have a distressingly high pain tolerance and I still get Novacaine for anything beyond general hygiene. I figure better that I’m numb and still than that they hit something just wrong and I flinch while my dentist is doing sensitive work in a small space.

  167. I read an article by a military dentist a year or two ago. He wrote that within the Marine Corps it had become a test of strength to have dental work done without any painkillers. It was common for him to work on a Marine who refused any medication and at the end of the procedure have the guy’s uniform completely sweat-soaked.

  168. I’ve had multiple root canals, at least 13 implants (four with separate bone grafts first), any number of extractions, gum surgery, and three biopsies on my tongue. (I rarely have cavities.) I cannot IMAGINE having any of these procedures without novocaine (actually, either xylocaine or lidocaine). I have a pretty high tolerance for pain; post-procedure, I almost never need anything stronger than a couple of acetaminophen. But I’m not a masochist. Gimme the novocaine.

  169. Oh, I want every painkiller known to humanity when my teeth are being fixed! My dentist used to use nitrous oxide on me to relax me enough to endure the treatment, Then numb where he was injecting me, THEN shoot me full of novacaine! (Yeah, I’m terrified of the dentist….)

  170. Some people have mental composition/brain chemistry to become easily addictive to drugs which alter the balance.

    As little as 5mg of a pain killer can set of a relapsing addiction.

  171. Novocaine me up, for sure. However, when I had my wisdom teeth removed, they did not put me under (I couldn’t afford it, but I also wouldn’t have requested it because I don’t think it’s necessary for me for such a routine procedure, and I would rather not have to recover from the pull AND being put under).

    One tooth was pretty compacted, and the entire thing was actually pretty funny. I had a great surgeon.

    I didn’t take any of the pain medicine that was given to me after the procedure, because I wasn’t in any pain. But I do have a high tolerance for pain, and I also am hard to squick out.

    I kinda like the dentist, as long as the dentist is cool. I guess I just don’t see what’s so scary about such a routine doctor appt.

  172. Also, I’ve read there’s a risk of damage to the trigeminal nerve when they do the injection. Scary!

    Is that why part of my lip is still a little weird/numb-like 6 years later? Interesting. Each year it does seem to get a little better/less numb, though.

  173. I’m with Fierce Passion–high tolerance for pain, earned the hard way, combined with no interest in experiencing more pain than necessary. I prefer nitrous oxide, but not so much to pay extra for it. The needle prick doesn’t particularly bother me, and while I’m not a fan of drooling, I don’t find the de-numbing (that’s a word, right?) process bothersome.

  174. I’ve never had anything done besides fillings (i.e. no root canal or such) so I’ve never had any painkillers. Not because I tolerate pain well – my wife could quickly correct you of that misconception – it’s because for me, it doesn’t hurt. I’m one of the lucky ones that only feels a slight discomfort when they drill – it never really rises to the level of pain. Using the little finger-pricker in my diabetic testing kit every day hurts more.

  175. It’s been a while since I’ve had a filling done but it was my recollection that the pain of the drill is about the equivalent of the pain of the Novocaine injection.

  176. My father never had painkillers for anything less than a root canal. I think it was his Minnesota Puritan streak.

    I’m a complete dental coward. I’m pretty brave about other pain, but somehow right there in my head is intensely worse. Bring on the drugs! I did once let a trusted dentist fill a tiny cavity without pain killers, and it worked out all right. Nice not to be numb and mumbly for hours afterwards. It didn’t tempt me to do without them regularly, though.

  177. Actually, what I’d really like is to be able to just check out for awhile–visit a fantasy world, go snorkeling, or something–and come back when it was all over. I’d like that for several medical procedures that aren’t even painful, just awkward.

  178. My childhood dentist never used any type of painkiller/anesthesia for fillings, and I had several. Perhaps they were all very shallow? I’ve never had a filing as an adult, but remember thinking it odd when I found out that anesthesia for mere fillings was actually a thing.

    The first and only time I had anesthesia for dental work was for extraction of my third molars (wisdom teeth) in my early 20s.

  179. It’s interesting to see how all over the map the responses are, from “Meh, painkillers — don’t need ’em”, to “I require drugs, lots of drugs, stat!!!” It’s also nice to see that every place on the scale is multiply represented, so no one feels weird.

  180. I don’t have any pain killers at all unless the dentist guarantees me that they’ll hit a nerve. If the dentist knows they’ll get a nerve, then I know I”ll flinch and screw things up. But if they’re not going to get a nerve, well, the drugs are kind of for psychological purposes. Honestly, the thing that bothers me most at the dentist is the sound, not the pain.

    When I was 16, I had my wisdom teeth pulled. They used novacaine I think, for that. They tried to give me nitrous. I warned them not to. They did. I turned blue, got clam-y, and they sort of freaked out.

    I avoid the drugs not out of some sense of “bwa ah ha, I’m more manly than you and I can handle the drugs.” I avoid the drugs because I’m uber sensitive to drugs. After my foot surgery, I was on percocet for three days (it really hurt) and then stopped cold turkey. Most people could do this. I, apparently, had become physically dependent in three days and went into narcotic withdrawal.

    Whenever I’m given a new med for whatever reason, I somehow manage to get the side effect than less than 1% of the population gets, and this is with me purposely taking it ignorantly and not reading the inserts or checking it out online. I call my sister, a pharmacist, and ask “Is there any reason I shouldn’t take this?” I do what she says, and she’s careful to not tell me any side effects. Yet I manage to get the rarest side effects.

    So yes, I avoid drugs. I avoid them because the drugs scare me more than the drill. And the drugs can’t do anything for the sound anyway.

    My daughter, on the other hand, requires a Valium just to get the novacaine shot.

  181. Numb me, please. I had an absessed tooth, and the novocaine didn’t totally numb the area the dentist was working on. Never again.

    Apparently I have a high tolerance for the stuff, because it wears off within a half an hour, and the dentist uses about twice as much on me as any of his other patients. I have full feeling back in my face by the time I’m home from the dentist.

  182. I have a note in my file “No local pain killer”. I experience the same amount of pain with, or without it, so there really is no benefit for me. Every time I get a new dentist, I try it, but no difference.

    Note to Researches. The most annoying part of drilling for me is the noise. however, trying to use ear buds to drown out the noise, actually works as a very good bone conducting amplifier. Still not brave enough to try closed headphones during the drilling.

  183. I have had a cavity filled without painkillers. The dentist said that it was a very shallow one and that there was no chance of hitting a nerve. Normally I’d take the drugs, but I was already getting one filled in the other side and numbing both sides would leave me a drooling wreck, so I opted for no drugs on that side.

    The dentist did not lie and it was fine.

    I have sensitive teeth and receding gums, so a regular cleaning hurts far more than getting a cavity filled. If I could get doped up for a tooth cleaning I would.

  184. Numbness for me! I’ve had enough dental procedures to last me a lifetime (all molars filled and 5 root canals so far – tooth genetics plus military-provided silver fillings) to make that call.
    In reality, it’s not the drill pressure you feel but the heat from the drill reaching the nerve for most fillings. If it’s just a cavity on the outside of the tooth, and small one at that, I can understand not worrying about it – little drilling means little pain. But if they have to drill down the center of the molar, you’re going to have heat reaching the nerve… and that really hurts.
    And for root canals, they’re activity reaching the nerve with this.. and having the metal drill / screw hit the nerve is a pain you will NEVER forget (it shut my right eye for almost a minute).

  185. Gas makes me vomit up more food than I’ve ever eaten. So it’s always injections into the gum. Unfortunately, injections never quite fully numb me. No idea why, they just don’t. So I always feel some pain anyway.

    Pain is good. Lets you know you’re alive.

    I had an impacted wisdom tooth removed, along with its opposite. At one point the dentist was kneeling on my chest and hauling for all he was worth with a pair of pliers. I wish I had a recording of the noise the tooth made as the pliers slipped off, splintering the edges of the tooth. There was another part where he was trying to cut through the gum with, essentially, an X-Acto knife, and he was pushing down with all his weight. All I could think was “If this dude slips right now he’s going to stab his chair… through the back of my neck.”

    My pain tolerance is kind of, sort of, maybe a little bit olympic. Even so, I’d never even consider having a tooth removed without anaesthetic. Anybody who’s ever had a dentist get even close to touching a nerve in their mouth knows it’s a completely different kind of pain to, say, breaking a leg or getting covered in road rash from head to toe.

    Fillings? Meh. Bring it on. Anything worse than that? No way.

  186. I wish they would knock me out the minute I sign in and pay for my dental appointment. Maybe then I’d actually go more often than once every few years. I’m a dental chicken.

  187. dope me and my body weight is 220 so please adjust for that.Also those two people who came in with me are here to carry me home and watch over me for the next 24 hours So make sure I don’t wake up for the next 8 please.
    Also we should do all the paperwork now.

  188. I’ve had crowns done without painkillers. The drilling really isn’t a big deal – you get the occasional twinge, and that’s it. The bit that hurts is when they put this string around the base of the tooth to make the gum withdraw so they can get a good impression for the crown. That hurts quite a bit, but when it’s over, it’s over. I definitely prefer that to needles and dealing with a numb face for the rest of the day. That said, it definitely helps that I’ve been going to the same dentist since I was a kid, and I trust him completely.

  189. My Mom was phobic about dental work, and her dentist perscribed vallium for her to take a hour before her appointment. So she would take one and leave for the office, hoping to be level headed until she got there.

    My childhood dentist was a sadistic monster, he thought novocaine was for wimps, and he didn’t work on wimps. I had to get all of his work redone in high school, he couldn’t get drilled deep enough to do a good job for my screaming and wriggling.

    I never feel my current dentist slide the needle in, he’s really good. He did once suggest going in without a shot because he felt that the nerve was dead, and I went along with his suggestion. But it started hurting about half way in, and he stopped to ask how I was doing. I told him it hurt, but let’s keep going – so we did it all without the numbing. Never again.

    Things are OK in my mouth for now.

  190. Lidocaine. Lots. And then probably a little more. I asked my dentist about nitrous and he said he won’t use it; there have been studies linking it to birth defects, and he has dental assistants of child-bearing age so he doesn’t want to risk it. (I have a fabulous dentist. In his Yelp reviews people call him a rock star of dentists. If you tell him you read the reviews he gets all blushy — it’s so cute!)

  191. A note for the lidocaine-sensitive – it can be the lidocaine as well as the adrenaline component. I had the ‘caine-only variant for years because of a heart murmur, and still went into shock one day because of the lidocaine-induced drop in blood pressure, which is why I normally have carbocaine these days.

  192. For me, shoot me up and use more than you think I need. A very good friend of mine was into hypnosis. He would go through dentist sessions with no painkillers using self hypnosis to deal with the pain.

  193. Anything short of a root canal, I much prefer to do without – I find the drilling much less annoying than the aftereffects of novocaine. Although I once had a tooth just up and die, and I almost called my dentist at about 3 am to see if I could come over for a shot of novocaine. I was about ready to get the vice grips out of the tool chest.

  194. Whenever I go to dentist, I face two of my phobias at the same time: phobia of dentists and phobia of needles.

    I dress very, very lightly, even in dead of winter for such appointments (and I go to a dentist who has special training for phobic or sensitive people), because otherwise I will sweat so much that the chair is going to be soaked. My pulse shoots up, I tremble, and I’m on verge of fainting any second. And that’s just dentists. I don’t know why. I know they’re good people, and are doing this job to make people feel better and healthier. But there you have it.

    Phobia of needles > phobia of dentists, reactions are even worse. Blood samples from my arm are pure Hell.

    Full anesthesia is not regularly done here, since it carries higher risks; mostly everything is done via local at dentist’s office. So my files say that all sharppointythings should be out of sight when I come in, and anesthesia gets applied only if I signal for it; they allow me to take the time I need to settle comfortably, and look at the tools they’re going to use. It is pretty fast (a minute, two), and thanks to having such a good dentist, it is getting faster still.

    I have a high pain tolerance, and frankly, most of the time I don’t feel that much while they drill (sound, now that’s a dilemma, not to mention scents); the most painful part to me is when they wrap that metal strip mould around the tooth to put the filling in, as it nips at the gums.

    So, yeah. Sans gum-poking, please, until I can’t take it and start whimpering for it.

  195. Novocaine.

    However I have an issue. If they need to do anything else, which requires ‘anesthetics’ of the opiate variety, they aren’t very effective. I was given Fentynal and they were quite annoyed that I stayed awake.

    Problem is that I’ve been on such high doses of opiates over the last ten years, that they are not longer as effective on me.

    Take Percoset – one pill will put most people to sleep. Four, along with sixty grains of morphine doesn’t even slow me down now.

    Wayne

  196. I’ve done it both ways. Been a long time since I had a filling done without novocaine (or equivalent), but for some minor fillings in my teens I did without. It’s having my face numb for several hours that bothered me, not the needle. For cleaning, though, even fairly deep periodontal cleaning, I’ve generally done without, but I think I have a fairly high pain threshold.

  197. Couple of things I forgot to mention. One is that when I had a large cavity in one of my two front teeth the dentist let me see with a mirror what my tooth looked like after the drilling and before the filling. It looked like a section of Swiss cheese, with this huge half (or more!) circle cut out. The porcelain match was so good, though, that I can’t tell which tooth has it (and don’t remember).

    Also, when I was about 18 I had a mole removed on my neck and Novocaine was injected for that. That injection was the single most painful thing I have ever experienced.

    I was knocked out for my wisdom teeth removal — just as well, as one was so large it had to be broken to get out. I have the other two (fourth never developed) and they’re huge. But having that total lapse of consciousness, one moment I was talking with the surgeon and the next I was in a curtained alcove with my mouth full of gauze… that was highly unsettling. Made it easier to imagine suspended animation and cryogeny (?) and similar sci-fi mainstays.

    Until reading this thread I had no idea nitrous oxide was still in use, having only seen mention of it in decades-old books. Also did not know that epinepherine was used with Novocaine. That seems more likely to be what makes me miserably jittery afterward. Will have to look into this.

  198. I don’t exactly love needles, but I want to be numb to the waist, if possible. Local anaesthetic and lots of it. Even cleaning hurts and drilling, the *only* time a dentist ever tried it on me without anaesthetic, was like an axe to the head. No ta. Breaking a bone hurt less.

  199. Numbing for me. As a kid, having my teeth drilled without painkillers may have saved my parents money but it was utter agony for me.

  200. I have horrible teeth and have spent alot of time at the dentist. In my 20’s (currently 52) I was living in Atlanta and was referred to a wonderful dentist. He suggested I go without the shots for a particular procedure and I did. It was amazingly painless. I still got the shots occasionally when he recommended it but it was nice to be able to walk out after without the numb, drooling face.

  201. For fillings and cleaning (sensitive teeth and dental phobia) numb the hell out of me. For extractions (2), knock me out and don’t stint on the pre-med calmatives, unless you want me to bolt.

    The only thing scarier than dental work is the prospect of being a toothless crone who can’t eat steak.

  202. I have zero anxiety with dentists and dentistry of any sort, probably because I had some insanely fucked up teeth when I was a kid (extra tooth growing out of the roof of my mouth behind my front incisors which pushed all my upper teeth out of alignment and required surgeries and multiple extractions and retainers and braces, oh my.) I ended up just getting totally zen about the whole dentist thing since it was that or become a gibbering nervous wreck for every visit–which was several times a year for many many years. I detest nitrous, won’t take the valium or any other anti-anxiety before a procedure, but I’m totally cool with getting numbed up. A needle stick is a whole lot less painful than a drill hitting a nerve. (I also have zero needle anxiety, so that helps.)

  203. Fillings – no drugs for me. I hate needles with a passion. I had 4 teeth pulled before braces (kid teeth) with no drugs either (that hurt a bit). But I think for any major work I would opt for the drugs.

  204. This is a fascinating reminder to me that nerves are different, and bodies are different, in ways that are not really ever made clear to a person in the course of their education. ‘oh, this nerve goes here’ and all that.

    My dentist is the one who made me realize the nerves aren’t always laid out the exact same way. My dentist (<3) believes firmly in numbing. And she would give me a couple of shots in the usual locations, and then start drilling, and it'd hurt. And she'd give me another shot or couple of shots in the same general area to no effect. In the end, she dripped a tiny bit of the anesthetic more-or-less directly on to the spot she was drilling itself, and that was super cold for half a second and then finally numb.

    After the second filling like that, she said 'you know, it might be another branch of the nerve, let me try this other area', injected into a totally different spot on my gums (other side of the tooth), and that finally worked. So the spots that she had to inject in my mouth to get numbness were actually different than for some other people.

    So it actually makes sense to me that some people would be saying 'i don't need anesthetic for a shallow cavity' and other people saying 'i need anesthetic for a deep cleaning', or that someone would need more shots than someone else to get the same effect. :-) Neat.

  205. I’ve gone in without any numbing at all for minor fillings, but I tend to have a fairly high tolerance for pain and discomfort in general. I usually left it at the discretion of my dentist, who is a pretty cool guy and has a good handle on what will actually hurt. Hasn’t wronged me yet.

  206. Those people who don’t want to be numbed are masochists.

    I think there’s ample evidence in this thread that people simply react differently.

  207. I was always all about the novacain and nitrous with it, too. But in the last year, I’ve had two laser fillings and both were done without any anesthesia or pain. Laser fillings won’t work for everything, but I’m glad to know that it’s an option that works for me in at least some circumstances.

  208. Generally speaking I prefer to not use pain-killers for mild discomforts, to avoid creating tolerance. I’ve never had root canals, but I suspect I would take some kind of numbing agent for that (I certainly did to get my wisdom teeth extracted). But minor drilling that will impact very little on the nerve and will not cause a lasting painful sensation… I’d rather save the pain-killers for something bigger.

    Granted, I could very well be wrong on the whole tolerance thing; certainly, constantly taking a lot of pain-killers will create tolerance, but the occasional use may very well not matter… and so I’m experiencing pain for no good reason whatsoever.

  209. A fair number of people are sensitive to the epinephrine used as a part of standard dental anesthesia; for them the anesthetic causes more pain than it kills. Non-epinephrine anesthesia exists, and is worth seeking out, if the usual anesthetics cause problems.

    (There are a fair number of web sites which will tell you this sensitivity does not exist. Feh.)

  210. Hmm. My childhood dentist was also a sadistic monster — I wonder if some of us commenting here had the same dentist. In addition to not using novocain, he used to jack my mouth open with this plastic and metal contraption (that would then hold my mouth open unnaturally and painfully wide). And he would strap you into the chair so you couldn’t move. He also pulled two of my sister’s teeth without any painkiller. What a awful man.

    I remember my first visit (in my late teens) to a different dentist. I had a cavity and I was cringing in anticipation of the pain of the drill. How shocked I was when the dentist smiled and said, “OK. All done!” I didn’t realize he’d actually done anything, because I hadn’t been in agony (and he wasn’t yelling at me).

    And… in answer to the question. Yes to painkillers, if it’s an option. I’m OK with a needle to inject them, and I’d also rather not wince suddenly when someone’s doing delicate dental work. Then again, I haven’t had a cavity or needed much dental work as an adult, so it hasn’t really been an issue.

  211. It’s been said a couple of times, but those novocaine shots are what make your face hurt long after the numbness wears off. I never use novocaine when I get a simple filling. The dentists hate it. I had one poor woman almost in tears because she was so worried she’d hurt me. I’ll admit that the drill is uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t call it painful.

    Now, you want to hear about a miserable dental experience? I had to have a bone graft where a section of bone from a wisdom tooth extraction didn’t heal right. Well, the doc numbed me up good with novocaine and proceeded to flay my gum down to the bone. I about levitated off the chair. That’s how I learned about accessory nerves… http://www.dentalfearcentral.org/fears/not-numb/#anatomy Five shots later, we couldn’t numb it up and we just proceeded with the surgery. I’m pretty sure my finger prints are still in the crushed armrests. The sutures were the worst. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried like a baby a bit at that point…

  212. When I was a child I had many filings done without any anesthetics and even a couple of root canals. They are tolerable, but NOT comfortable.

    I also had a tooth extraction with failed anesthesia (also as a child). That was extremely painful, but only for a couple of seconds.

  213. I’ve only ever had one tooth filled, when I was about 7 or 8, and I put up such a terrified fuss over the whole, small ordeal that they ended up drilling without the needle. While my memory of the event is somewhat foggy, I don’t recall it was something I particularly enjoyed, though I don’t think it ranked among my most painful of life experiences, either.

  214. I generally only have had minor cavities filled – which since my brother-in-law (a dentist) offered to forego the needle back in ’98, I haven’t used anaesthesia since. Perhaps I have been lucky with my dentists, but in getting fillings replaced and one new cavity, no real noticable pain during the procedure (maybe a tiny sharp pain once or twice, but nothing long lasting). So it’s not a matter of pushing through the pain – it really (for *minor* procedures) isn’t painful enough to need anaesthesia.

    My current dentist is willing to start without anaesthesia, but told me I could stop the procedure at any time to numb up.

    On the other hand – when I had my wisdom teeth out (all four at once), I had them put me under for that.

  215. Growing up, my dentist used nitrous oxide. I think it was his standard for kids. As an adult, I haven’t had to have any cavities filled. I would probably choose the gas, since I have no idea what a novocaine shot would be like. When I had my wisdom teeth out, I asked to be put under.

  216. My brother always got his teeth filled without getting numbed up. I never understood it either.

  217. At the age of 86+ I seem to be approaching the complete circle — I don’t really remember the previous time I had only six teeth (& Dr. Saenz says one of these is going to break off any month now).

    But yes, some kind of -caine injection every time. (With cardiac problems, I’m not confident of waking up after nitrous oxide treatment, even though several friends use it for entertainment. Most of the -caines give me a somewhat allergic reaction — my head sweats as it/they wear off — but this isn’t really a Problem, and I’m sorry I mentioned it to my HMO people — one shot of novacaine would be welcome if I’m going to get more than one or two sutures, but apparently changing Medical Records simply Is Not Done.

    I note that my dentist is convinced that injecting the anesthetic very slowly is the key to it being super-effective, and my experience is that he’s right about this (even though he’s a graduate of the USC Dental school and I’m a UCLA-affiliate (actually UCBerkeley).

    No, I don’t like the numb face or (much) the need to wrap myself up in bedclothes for the rest of the day, but I find it better than extreme pain in the dental chair. And a couple of glugs of brandy, in a tall glass of chocolate soy milk, helps a lot, though I wouldn’t want to do this often.

  218. So… no one else had to go to a hospital to have their wisdom teeth out?

    I had general anesthetic, with ice packs and regular doses of Darvon for the rest of the week. I spent two nights in the hospital, then stayed in bed at home for the aforementioned rest of the week. Did you know they sew your gums to your cheeks during the procedure?

    For fillings, it’s just Novocaine, which wears off in two to three hours.

  219. My dentist is not stingy with the novocaine. Yeah baby. He’ll shoot you up 2-3 times if need be. Plus, he paid his way through dental school as a massage therapist, so you get a nice neck and jaw and face rub.

    He’s given up using novocaine with epinephrine, since so many people are sensitive to it. All his work is no-epi. Saves paperwork, too. He doesn’t do nitrous, but numbing gel before, tons of novocaine, and Vicodin afterwards.

    Not being able to eat soup for a couple hours is always preferable to pain.

  220. Novocaine, please. I’m a devout coward.

    Just had a root canal and, from the look of the x-rays, had roots that looked like a Klein’s bottle. my endodontist did a great job (thanks, Dr. Randall!) and no pain at all through the procedure. Afterward was another matter – I had a case of the dumb and didn’t request something stronger than acetamenophen (ate those things like M & M’s without much result).

    Don’t care if water dribbles out of my face for an hour or two later, just pass me some codine
    for the aftermath.

  221. (Quite a sample size you’re getting here.) When I was a kid they didn’t have that surface-numbing stuff and the novocaine needles were fairly large bore. For a small accessible cavity, there was definitely less total pain just going with the drill. These days, you barely feel the needle. Novocaine for everything, I say.

  222. Oh man oh man. So.

    When I was about… 15? How old are you frosh year of high school? Let’s say 15. Anyway, I was getting ready to have four teeth pulled. I was then, as I am now, deathly afraid of needles. I was telling some friends of mine at school that I was considering skipping the novacaine(sic) injection and just getting it over with when some football-guy-thing called me out, telling me I was just being dramatic and that I would just wimp out and take the injection at the last minute.

    So I figured ***k that guy, I’m gonna just do it.

    First there was a sort of “cranking” sensation, a feeling like the tooth was being bent to its breaking point. Then a crack. I didn’t really feel pain so much as shock, like when you’re suddenly dunked into insanely cold water. It happened again and there were tears streaming down my face. The dentist asked if I wanted the shot after all.

    “NO!” I gasped through short, gasping breaths. “JUST DO IT.”

    Stupid stupid stupid.

    Anyway, he finished and I sat in the waiting room for over an hour waiting for my ride. (I hadn’t told my mom about this little stunt I’d been planning obviously, so she’d gone grocery shopping assuming the procedure would take much longer.) It sucked. I still hate needles, but if I could go back I’d take the damn injection and be done with it.

  223. I usually don’t have deep cavities so I opt for no needle usually. Normally it’s ok and the drilling is over pretty quick with no pain…just some discomfort. One time though the dentist thought it was a shallow cavity and it was deeper than he thought. That time it was worse and I was thinking I should’ve gotten the shot. It wasn’t bad pain…just took really long and when the pain got too much I asked him to stop a bit…then he’d go on. It would’ve been better with the shot though. o.O

  224. @Pfusand – I had my wisdom teeth out in the day surgery unit of a hospital. I think they had to do it there because I asked for a general anaesthetic. I could only have it done in the dentist’s chair if I was having a local. I didn’t stay overnight because it was a day surgery, but they nearly admitted me to the main hospital because of my reaction to the anaesthetic. Wisdom teeth extractions under general anaesthesia are very rough (they take something like 3 minutes per tooth for an unerupted wisdom tooth). My face was bruised and swollen up like a chipmunk for about two weeks afterwards.

  225. Eric, you have described Novocaine epinephrine sensitivity. If you’d like less pain in your life, check into non-epinephrine dental anesthesia. (My wife adds, “Deepest sympathies. Been there, done that.” You have described her symptoms.)

  226. For the record, the medication is Septocaine, a mixture of articane and epinephrine sold as a generic, and the symptoms of reaction are described in this article: http://www.rxlist.com/septocaine-side-effects-drug-center.htm.

    Some people are apparently hypersensitive to epinephrine, leading to dramatic swelling. Facial edema (swelling) occurs in 1% of uses, pain in 13%. In my wife’s case, the swelling is so quick that the anesthetic does not get to the tooth, only the gum.

    People who have this sensitivity are at risk for other uses of epinephrine and, in my opinion, would be wise to wear a Medic Alert bracelet to warn EMTs.

    I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television.

  227. After the first time I had a cavity filled as a kid, I asked the dentist if I could go without the pain killer, as the needle hurt more than I imagined the drill would. He thought I was nuts, but he and my mom agreed to it.

    The only times I’ve ever had an injected pain killer for dental work were for extractions (and a general for my wisdom teeth). All else has been bareback. The drill bits really didn’t hurt.

  228. Many, many years ago (late 1960s – early ’70s) I used to go to a dentist who usually didn’t use an anaesthetic. He was a genius, and the only time he hurt me (a bit) was when he was filling one of my molars. He used to use an (even then) old-school slow drill rather than one of those turbo-charged buggers they all have now, which helped. (He was fairly old then, and has probably been dead for 30 years.)

    These days, definitely the drugs.

  229. The various caines have these effects on my epinephrine sensitivity (or whatever it its):
    Lidocaine – Big NO.
    Septocaine – Makes me feel slightly nauseous, but I can deal with that.
    Carbocaine – No problems other than needing more shots.

    Now, wisdom teeth:

    I had 4 impacted wisdom teeth extracted when I was in college. A night in the hospital and icebags on my face for a week. But, Demerol is lots of fun. Don’t try it at home, kids.

  230. It’s not a case of being stoic for me, drilling just doesn’t hurt, it’s merely unpleasant.

    Typical first visit to a new dentist:
    me: no painkiller, it’ll be ok
    dentist: ok, signal me when the pain gets too much
    dentist, after drilling rather deep with no stop signal from me: oookey, let’s see if the nerve is still alive
    dentist applies a blast of cold
    dentist and dentists assistant scrape me off the ceiling

    I got painkillers both for my wisdom tooth extractions (the noise, the awful noise .. I want to be unconscious if I ever have to get another extraction) and for a crown, and in both cases the dentists were good enough with the needle that I didn’t feel the prick. The anesthetic worked and had no unexpected side effects, so I have no reasons besides it not actually doing anything useful for me (and the numbness being unpleasant) to not get a painkiller for drilling.

    Given that dentists are surprised at my lack of pain, I’m likely an extreme case, but assuming that there is a scale of responsiveness of teeth and that quite a few of the people who skip painkillers don’t experience bad pain is quite reasonable I think.

  231. Novocaine, as in 30 years of dental bits and ticks, this particular wonder drug has yet to fail me. Lodine, Coedine’s slightly less-entrancing little brother, gets an honorable mention as it worked nicely to keep me somewhat focused in the days after having that first wisdom tooth removed.

  232. I’d rather skip the Novocaine whenever possible. It tastes disgusting and leaves my whole mouth feeling wrong for a minimum of 8 hours.

  233. When I was younger I had several teeth filled without painkillers because I just hate, hate, hate getting shots. Eventually it occurred to me that the increment was not worth the excrement, and now I just get the shots.

  234. I’m really sensitive to Novocaine, it numbs me immediately and for a long, long time. If it is something minor, I’d prefer to use laughing gas which wears off almost immediately as I hate being numb forever. Laughing gas is surreal and interesting anyway because for me, it doesn’t eliminate pain, it just makes me not care about it. But yeah, my Dad is a dentist and there are always a small percentage of patients that avoid Novocaine and the like if at all possible.

  235. Im “partially” immune to the various “Cains” proven by both dentist and doctor. Runs in my family. Dentist uses the maximum dose they can and she has no more than 2 minutes before I’m feeling it. Not fun. Love to know what genetic combination causes this.

  236. Once, when I was in my early teens, I was at the dentist to have a teensy, tiny cavity filled. Since it was so teensy tiny and I absolutely loathed the hours of Novocaine numbness that usually follow a dentist visit, I requested that the dentist not use any. The dentist thought that would be okay, seeing as the cavity was really, REALLY teensy tiny and he would only have to drill for a minute or so.

    Jesus. Monkeyloving. Christ.

    That was at least 20 years ago now and it remains the worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I love Novocaine now. Novocaine is my friend.

  237. My first dentist in my life didn’t believe kids needed anesthetic. I’m not a needle phobe, I’ve had to deal with enough medical shit in my life that needles are a non-issue. We ended up with a pediatric dentist because I had lots of cavities, and my parents realized that first guy (their dentist) wasn’t it for kids.

    I am possibly on record at the dental school because, as the proctor said, “I’ve never heard anyone say that with all that stuff in their mouth.” The did a root canal on my backmost upper molar (which can have like 7 nerve possibilities) and they hadn’t got the right one when they started drilling. When all was said and done, I had to call another friend to come get me because I’d had too much novocaine. What Chris B said.

    I’ve got a good, kind dental group now that I see for my troubles. They are thorough about numbing me up before they start. Anesthetic is your friend.

  238. I tried it. Once.

    I wasn’t needle-phobic. I was, however, needle-jabbed-into-my-jaw-and-wiggled-around-phobic. At the time — early teens — I was also really sensitive to any irritation of my gums, cheeks, etc., and could get awful sores.

    So I thought “Let’s see what happens if I ask for no novocaine.” I think I was a bit taken aback when the dentist said “Well…okay.”

    In lieu of novocaine, the dentist kept the nitrous flowing up my nose the whole time. Remember that scene in Silent Running, when the robots start operating on Freeman Lowell’s injured leg, and he responds by taking deep breaths of gas? That was me when the drilling started.

    At some point, I imagined (hallucinated?) myself as a disembodied brain floating in a starless void, attacked from all sides by unseen creatures with no purpose but to cause me agony. When it was all over, my mom had to lead me to the car, helping me negotiate tremendous obstacles like curbs and door frames.

    That was the last time I opted for no local anaesthetic.

  239. It really depends on the operation. For root canal work, yes please. For some simple drilling, nah. Some small pain for a short time is really worth not having your face feel not there for hours. Or having to be extra careful not to bite off bits of your tongue or inner cheek.

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