Another it's 2020 Question [Why are dentists still using painful novocaine shots!?]

If this should be in IMHO, feel free to move it.

It’s 2020, so why are dentists still using painful novocaine shots!?

Like most kids, I hated the dentist. To make matters worse, back in the 60s I don’t think we had fluoride in the water yet and we had no fluoride dental treatments. We kids always had cavities. As an adult, I lost the fear of dentists. It wasn’t my favorite place to go, but I was ok with it. One reason was probably because I rarely had to have any actual dental work done other than cleaning and x-rays.

In the last few years, I’ve had to have some dental work. Some of those old fillings from the 70s have broken and have had to be replaced. The novocaine shots have been horrible. The dentist will numb my gums with a topical anesthetic but WOW that giant needle going in had me white-knuckling the armrests of the chair.

I can’t believe there hasn’t been anything better, less painful developed in all this time. I know there are dentists that will put you completely under to do basic dental work for people that have anxiety issues when it comes to any dental work. But I won’t go that far.

I’ve never tried gas. Does that help?

My dentist does this thing where he grabs my cheek with his free hand and sort of wiggles it back and forth. It makes the shot considerably less painful (but it takes longer). Personally, shots don’t bug me, yeah they hurt (especially novacaine in my mouth), but I’d much rather he just did it and got it over with. But, again, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much when he does that.
Edit: apparently it’s pretty common, there’s a lot of mentions of it on the web.


One site even mentioned a special needle that vibrates while the dentist is doing the injection for just this reason.

I went to a dentist that used a swab with a local anesthetic on it before he gave an injection.

I went to a dentist that used a swab with a local anesthetic on it before he gave an injection.

Same here. He swabs the area first, and within a minute or so the area is numb, so he can insert a needle and I barely feel it.

It does. You still feel the pain, but don’t care about it as much.

My dental office is very generous with the nitrous-- for anything more involved than a normal checkup & cleaning, they ask if I want it. I’m not squeamish about dental procedures or moderate amounts of pain, but I figure if they’re offering, why not?

Moderator Note

Thread title edited to more clearly indicate the topic. Please use descriptive thread titles.

Just a note: Most dentist offices don’t use Novocaine by default anymore. It was the standard from the 1900s to the 1950s, but there are newer drugs that provoke fewer allergic reactions, act quicker, and last longer. By the 1980s it had fallen out of favor with dentist’s offices, and newer drugs like Lidocaine are much more common, but the name stuck around in popular culture. Also, “Novocaine” was a particular brand name, Procaine is the actual drug name.

I donate platelets every couple of weeks, which involves sticking a fairly large needle in each arm. The phlebotomists pull on the vein a bit behind the insertion point for a few seconds before inserting the needle. I usually don’t feel the needle go in at all. I thought that they were making sure that they had the right spot but it seems likely that it’s for the same reason your dentist shakes your cheek. They didn’t do it at the donation center I went to and it hurt more.

Injecting the large amount of liquid very slowly will help lessen the pain all on its own, independent of the wiggling of the cheek.

They also typically have some Epinephrine (essentially adrenalin) mixed in. This makes it last longer by constricting the blood vessels around the injection site.

I actually had to ask my dentist if he could back off on it a bit, as it was causing me to have an uncomfortably increased heartrate.

Novocain pain? OK, listen to this:
Some years ago I broke a bicuspid straight down the middle by biting down on a cherry pit. I went to the dentist, extraction was needed. Two novocain shots later, it still hurt. He informed me he couldn’t use the epinephrine with it due to my heart condition and that an infection was making it worse. He sent me away with a prescription for hydrocodones and antibiotics. I faithfully took the antibiotics and stayed high for a week.

I went back at the appointed time. Different dentist (same office) this time. Got shots. It still hurt. He said hold on tight and proceeded to jab the needle down along the outside of the root of the tooth while I screamed bloody murder. One minute later, he yanked the tooth without my feeling a thing. I left the office with a new script for hydrocodones which I filled. I think I took one of them and saved the rest for gout flare-ups. After a week of taking those things, I enjoyed not being stoned 24/7.

My dentist leans on the plunger, too. I had a flu shot from a pharmacist once. It felt and look as though he had hit me with a baseball bat.

When I hear stories like this, it terrifies me.

I have the best dentist in the world. Have been going to him since I graduated from my pediatric dentist, about 30 years ago.

He’s pretty old now, gotta be in his 70’s, and I am always afraid that he is going to retire on me, and then I will have to experience all the horrors of going to a dentist that is not the best dentist in the world have to go through.

My dentist does this too but it’s just for the surface. The pain I’m feeling is when the needle is inside and the novocaine is being pushed out. :persevere:

Your dentist needs to push it out more slowly, and do the cheek-jiggling thing.

Do try using laughing gas and see if it helps. I find it does, but I don’t like paying extra for it, so I usually just go with the injection.

The locals administered by my dentist, a talented eastern European lady, are not painless but hurt very little. She uses a topical numbing agent beforehand.

It sounds like other dentists use poor technique.

I recently moved 300 miles away but it sounds like it would be worth the drive to keep seeing her.

I have a totally awesome dentist also. I’ve had to had a couple of old fillings replaced recently so I have fresh knowledge of this, too. For me, the topical anesthetic he gives me only helps with the soft tissue, like the shot into the cheek or soft gum. But it does nothing for shots into the roof of my mouth. Those are the WORST.

The best dentist to give me a shot was from a local dentist in the Philippines back in the 70’s. The dentist, a lady, had a technique for injection that was not the typical american style. It’s been 50 years so I don’t remember the exact technique but it was almost painless.

I’m afraid to have them use anything but novocaine. Novocaine doesn’t always work on me but then after I got my wisdom teeth out neither did the Tylenol with codeine. So I worry what other drugs might do.

Huh, i don’t like getting lidocaine, because it takes a long time to wear off and i hate the numbness. But it doesn’t hurt much to get it.