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2nd Time trying couldn't numb the tooth scared and confused



Junior member
May 16, 2019
I just left the dentist after trying for a root canal for the 2nd time. They still couldn't numb the tooth ( very last molar on the lower right of my mouth) and it felt like I was being stabbed. The first time they said I had an abscess and that's why the tooth wouldn't numb. And they weren't upset.
This time, I felt more numb than last time but it was the same stabbing sensation. And as I'm typing now, the tooth is throbbing. They chalked it up to nerves, since the infection couldnt be there anymore because of the antibiotics, and I felt guilty for not calming down (though I was trying??) They seemed annoyed. But I couldn't help that it literally felt like I was being stabbed!!
They gave me the legal limit of numbing and it still felt like stabbing.
Now I'm scheduled for a 3rd appointment, this time with nitrous because the dentist said it should help my nerves (though I don't understand how nerves could cause it felt like stabbing pains??) And I'm scared. So scared. What do I do this time if it doesn't numb? How do I calm down to a point to where it doesn't effect the numbing? Is the nitrous gonna help at all?

I just want the pain to stop.

I"m so sorry about your anesthetic experience and the stabbing pains. That really sounds awful!
Did you go to a regular dentist or endodontist? sometimes endodontists have certain anesthetic skills for root canals that are hard to anesthetize, but so also with dentists. some just know tricks or ways to make it less painful. Did they give you the gel first? It sounds like you did all you could . I don't know what else to say much other than I am so sorry for this experience it certainly is scary and I hope you do something kind for your self today .
I believe its just a dentist but I could be wrong. They did do all they could from what they told me. They also gave me some stronger antibiotics. I just hate that I feel like I annoyed my dentist and his assistant. Like, I'm 24, I should be able to suck it up and power through but I just couldn't. I also feel guilty because this was all preventable.

I understand the not wanting to be annoying part.. and its really a vulnerable place you were in. I remember my first root canal the dentist gave me "his limit" he said every patient only gets one shot and that is enough, I suffered through a very painful root canal , it was a bit traumatic. He told he "its ok, you can feel pain, that is okay".. Well really I can say I've had at least a half a dozen other root canals where I have felt nothing and they made sure to give me enough pain meds. You shouldn't have to feel you need to suck it up and go through pain when there are options not to. Of course realizing dentistry or our mouths are not perfect and sometimes we may feel something . but hopefully should not be stabbing pain to such a degree. Maybe have the nitrous will relax you enough to cause the anesthetic to take differently? Not sure if that would be a thing. but I do wish you relief wither way. Although its really hard to be hard on ourselves and blame ourselves its not your fault and you are not annoying for speaking up about pain or not wanting to go through painful anesthetic. I hope it is much better the next time..
Don't feel bad for not being able to handle the pain. I have always had a hard time getting numb, and the lower molars are known to be difficult to numb.

The nitrous does help me. When you are anxious, your blood pumps faster and the anesthesia doesn't work as well. Nitrous can calm you down so it numbs better.
I believe its just a dentist but I could be wrong. They did do all they could from what they told me. They also gave me some stronger antibiotics. I just hate that I feel like I annoyed my dentist and his assistant. Like, I'm 24, I should be able to suck it up and power through but I just couldn't. I also feel guilty because this was all preventable.

No, no and no. You shouldn't be able to suck it up and power through and it has nothing to do with your age either. Also, feeling very stressed during a treatment is a very common thing and no excuse for your dentist (if a patient is scared it's even more important to provide painfree treatment). Your dentist should be able to get you numb, period.

It sounds like you feel bad about what happened and I feel a sense of feeling guilty in a way, but there is no reason to. I am sorry to read that your dentist appeared annoyed, that sounds really discouraging and would make me worried about getting back. It is true that infected teeth are harder to get numb. Did you feel like the numbness kicked in after you got out of the office and calmed down? Also do you like the idea about the nitrous?

We have an article about not getting numb in our common fear section. You might find some explanations or ideas there.

My advice is, if you do not feel comfortable with your dentist, get another one. As krlovesherkids suggests, trying an endodontist is a good idea.

By the way, I know a story about someone who couldn't get numb for a procedure. They tried literally for few hours and he was still in pain. The dentist then said ok, one of us seems to have a really bad day today, lets reschedule and try again next time. On that other day the guy was perfectly numb after just one try and they were able to complete the treatment.
Hi Harmoni
It's not your fault. It's the dentist's job to get you numb. You may well have been spun a line as I understand the maximum dose for an adult is very high indeed and also there are stronger better types of local anaesthetic which can be used. There may be no point in keeping injecting in the same place - they need to find the correct place - some people are wired slightly differently.
As someone else said up-thread, it might be worth switching to an endodontist as they tend to know advanced numbing techniques as it goes with the territory. Nitrous could help if your anxiety is the cause but it might just be that they are not injecting correctly; so see it as your responsibility to give yourself a pleasant dental experience and if that means going elsewhere, so be it.
I have had similar experiences with not getting numb on lower back molars. My whole cheek, lip, and side of my mouth felt fat and numb, but the minute the endodontist touched the tooth - ouch! What helped every time was an intraosseous injection. They put in a catheter from the side of the tooth and directly inject the anesthesia into the bone. It sounds scary, but it honestly wasn’t and it worked!! And with the catheter in, he could add more anytime I felt like I needed it. Maybe ask for that next time? Endodontists are often able to handle hard to numb situations easily. I have also heard that nitrous or oral sedation like halcyon or ativan helps hard to numb/anxious patients. I haven’t tried either, but it might help. Good luck and please let us know how everything goes.
We are all different and some people are incredibly difficult to get profound anesthesia in dentistry. Typically the most difficult anesthesia to obtain is the "hot" or hypersensitive lower molar. Having said this there are two viable alternatives. One is to see an endodontist as they treat these problems more often. Secondly is to see someone like me who regularly deals in these issues. Don't feel bad I once had an endodontist who called me up asking me to please see this patient of his. She was cussing, yelling and crying in the background. And yes I was able to help her.
I have also done a few pulpotomies (the start of a root canal) to make the endodontist job easier as once you are in it is easy to get numb.