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does local anaesthesia not work for me? Do people really feel nothing??



Junior member
Jul 25, 2023
Just how effective is anesthesia meant to be?

When I was a kid and I needed my first but of work done on my teeth, I was scared from that point onwards. I've always tried to avoid going to the dentist because the pain of the work being done far outstripped the pain from the actual tooth hurting. Even the mere mention of teeth I always walk away from because of that first experience I had as a child.

Today I really needed a dentist and wanted/needed the tooth pulled out because I was in pain, the tooth had decayed.... Plus I am on holiday in a few weeks and didn't want pain whilst abroad. I managed to get an emergency appointment and explained my situation... That I avoid the dentist because it's always a super painful experience and please give me as much anesthesia as they could because I normally feel everything.

so they were extracting a tooth and the dentist injects me 2 times with anesthesia. They begin to pull and the pain is immense. After a minute of tugging with the pliers and no movement.... I explain I can't take anymore and need way more anesthesia because it's hurting. They inject me another 3 times and continue tugging. I'm screaming because I'm just feeling everything. The pain from the tugging is now way more than the pain I was getting from the tooth.

Dentist begins to explain to me that I'm had a lot anesthesia and that I can't be feeling pain and that it's probably the pressure... But Im feeling great pain and feeling everything.... But they just don't believe me. Do other people really feel nothing after local anesthesia or are they exaggerating? Am I really meant to feel almost nothing??? Am I not normal or have a low pain threshold?
Hopefully a dentist can get on here with more information.

What I do want to say, though, is that you need to find a dentist who can really talk with you. It's hard in a situation like the one you were in, because when you're in pain and you're new to the practice, they are often pressured to act and act fast!-- to solve the problem with your pain! But once the crisis is over, you should call and schedule a long appointment (explain to the receptionist that you need a consult with the dentist) in which you can explain all of this clearly at a time when you are NOT in pain: "Every dental procedure I've ever had has caused excruciating pain. Last time, they gave me 5 doses of the anesthetic, but it did not seem to affect my sensation at all. I know I'll need more work done in the future; what would you recommend?" Let the dentist advise you; maybe you'll need to have future work done in a specialty clinic for difficult cases, or even under general anesthesia. Of course, if the dentist says, "That's impossible, I don't believe you," then you'll need to try another dental office! But I bet they wont' say that.
You shouldn't feel any pain. The tugging and pain can be uncomfortable, but not painful. (The feeling of someone tugging on your finger as opposed to slamming a brick on it.)

There are a few things that can cause anesthesia to not be effective. Some people metabolize it very quickly, and anxiety can cause increased metabolism. In some people there are anatomical differences that cause the nerve to be in a slightly different location. Some people have really deep roots. When I had a tooth extracted a few years ago the surgeon used a nerve block that was very effective.

Talk with your dentist before having additional work done. You may benefit from sedation dentistry.
There are a few reasons why local anaesthesia doesn't work well on some people. One is Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder. It's systemic, but one symptom is hypermobility. If you are more flexible than most people, or were as a child but now you're really stiff and have lots of pain, I'd definitely look into it.

I have heard far too many stories by now of people with EDS getting this response from dentists when the local anaesthetic doesn't work. It's horrifying. Don't go back to someone who kept causing you pain while you were screaming and begging them to stop.
Hey dalehitchy,

so sorry to read about your experience, particularly a dentist who did not believe you were in pain. No person ever makes pain up and of course, there is a massive difference between pain and pressure. It always makes me speechless to hear or read about dentists trying to convince someone that it is only pressure. Fortunately, there are enough dentists who are taking their patients seriously.

To your question: yes, you are not supposed to feel pain and that's what local is supposed to do. Also, if you have a history of not getting numb, your dentist should ensure you are numb properly before even starting a procedure, for example, check the gums a couple of times and ask whether you feel it. Also, if numbing is not working, stopping the procedure and rescheduling is best. Sometimes it's a different day that makes a difference, sometimes another dentist, another anesthetic, or another way of numbing. But trying to do an extraction if you're in pain sounds horrible.

We have an extensive article that explains how numbing work and what could be the issues if that is not the case, as well as what could help:

If you have been "used" to pain during your past visits, I see how the idea of refusing to accept treatment if you're not numb may sound weird, but I can only encourage you to advocate for yourself and only work with someone who is willing to find out how to make you not feel anything.

All the best wishes