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Novocaine, also known as procaine, is commonly used during oral procedures. If you have impending oral surgery, you may be wondering exactly what novocaine will feel like and how long you will be feeling that way. Will you be out of commission for the rest of the day? Will your face remain numb the following day? What are the factors that affect the duration of the numbness? These are all legitimate questions to be asking, especially if you know you need to go to work the next day.
Novocaine is a local anesthetic agent that causes numbness and a loss of feeling when applied to skin and mucous membranes, causing only a specific area of the body to grow numb. Administration of the anesthetic is usually done via an injection right before either medical or dental surgery.
It works by constricting the blood vessels surrounding the area where it has been applied, subsequently reducing bleeding and causing a numbing sensation. Novocaine is also a sodium channel blocker and prevents nerve impulses from transmitting, making it an effective local anesthetic. It is commonly coupled with epinephrine to increase the effects of the anesthetic. If you’re wondering “how long does novocaine last” then keep reading on!
History of Novocaine
Novocaine has been in popular use for over a century. The German chemist Alfred Einhorn created procaine – which we commonly call novocaine – in 1905. He named the chemical, deriving the name from the Latin word for “new” (“nov”) and the ending “-caine,” shared with many similar alkaloids used in anesthetics, such as cocaine – which was a fairly common anesthetic during this time. Einhorn intended for his new chemical to be used during amputations, however it was found to be more useful for dental procedures. He was not very happy with this common use, but in the end the anesthetic was more practical for dentists rather than doctors.
Prior to novocaine, cocaine had been the most popularly used anesthetic. However, near the end of the 1800s doctors began to realize the negative effects resulting from the addictive quality of cocaine. This meant a substitute was needed. Doctors needed a painkiller that wasn’t addictive and also didn’t irritate the skin like some of the cocaine alternatives. Novocaine was found to be the perfect choice.
Uses of Novocaine
The primary use of novocaine is in dental surgery. As a local anesthetic agent, novocaine’s primary use is the reduction of pain during a medical or dental procedure. It is often administered along with epinephrine which acts as a vasoconstrictor, causing the circulation to slow down and prolonging the duration of the anesthetic.
Novocaine is most commonly used for dental surgery, ranging from tooth extractions, such as the removal of the wisdom teeth, to tooth fillings and root canals. During these procedures, novocaine is injected via a needle to the area that requires anesthetizing. Root canals typically require extra local anesthetic.
Less common uses for novocaine, due to insufficient evidence regarding the effectiveness of its use, include treating arthritis pain, dementia, depression, high blood pressure, and hair loss.
Novocaine is not as frequently used nowadays as it once was. Lidocaine is often seen as a preferable alternative as an anesthetic due to research showing it being more hypoallergenic, or less prone to an allergic reaction. Still, allergic reactions to novocaine are very uncommon. Let your dentist know if this is the first time you are receiving an anesthetic for surgery. Side effects of an allergic reaction are usually contained to your mouth and include swelling.
How Long Does Novocaine Last?
After the novocaine injection, numbness of that area begins to set in within 2 to 5 minutes. The longevity of the anesthesia can vary depending on the injection location, concentration, and presence of epinephrine, although typically it can be expected to last between 1.5 to 3 hours. The time may vary from individual to individual, although the typical duration can be expected.
When epinephrine is used with the injection, it will constrict the blood vessels in the area of the injection. This causes less blood flow, which means the novocaine is not carried away from the teeth area via blood vessels as quickly. This causes the numbing effect to last longer and work more efficiently. The epinephrine may cause your heart to beat more quickly, but this is harmless and will not last long or have any adverse effects on your body.
Without the presence of epinephrine, numbness will on average last approximately one hour after you leave the dentist. The concentration of the novocaine also plays a role in how long it will last. If your dentist is using a slightly higher concentration, the numbness will last longer. You can ask your dentist prior to the surgery what type of anesthetic they are using and the concentration of this anesthetic. The typical concentration is around 3%.
Some patients may find that it is more difficult for the numbing effects to set in. In these instances, dentists may use an additional injection necessary in order to employ the anesthetic. This may cause the effects to last longer, though not necessarily double the time. More complicated oral surgeries, such as root canals, may also involve more than one injection. This can lead to the patient experiencing numbness for up to four hours after the surgery.
Oral surgery involving teeth in the lower back of the jaw may require the use of a nerve block. The effects of the nerve block will cause the numbness to last a little bit longer as well – up to 25% longer than novocaine on its own. Therefore, oral surgery involving a lower moral may involve numbness lasting longer than surgery involving the upper front teeth.
Novocaine Wrap Up
In the end, novocaine is metabolized in our plasma by enzymes and excreted via the kidneys through our urine. The anesthetic will not linger in your blood stream after the surgery. It is highly unlikely you will experience any lasting effects the next morning due to this.