One dentist shot too many
April 24, 2010 6:51 PM   Subscribe

I went to see a new dentist recently for a somewhat minor repair to a crown. He gave me three shots of Novocaine, one of them in a nontypical spot in my mouth. Two months later I have reduced sensation in my tongue on that side. I think the dentist damaged my nerves in my tongue. It feels kind of numb to this day. What should I do?

I got a new dentist recently, having switched jobs and health insurance coverage. The new office was very busy, very efficient and well run seemingly. Everything went pretty well until time to get the anesthetic. My problem was a crown with a chip in the top. Fairly minor repair job with some plastic.
The dentist gave me 1 shot, then another, then a third. By this time I'm thinking 'three shots?!?'. I've never had a dentist give me three shots to my recall. The third one was angled down inside my lower right gum beside the base of the tongue. I can't recall a dentist every going to that particular place with a shot to numb me up.
I've had 20-30 dentists in the course of my life and always had competent treatment. This new dentist has a business title that suggests you will have an easy experience. I guess his method is to overload on the novocaine.
So, now my tongue feels kind of numb still. Kind of a bit of burning sensation. I sometimes trip over words a bit because my tongue isn't as agile as it should be. It feels different in terms of sensation between the left side and the right side. I also tend to bite my tongue a bit more because it doesn't respond quite right.
So what should I do? I've been mentally writing my letter to the dentist now for weeks while hoping my tongue would naturally heal. After almost 8 weeks, it's starting to seem a bit unlikely.
I'm thinking the dentist, in his zeal to prevent pain, goes to another extreme and has injured my tongue with an excessive application of novocaine shots.
I've never been injured by a medical professional before. What should I do?
posted by diode to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should speak to your physician about the loss of sensation and either get a diagnosis or see what sort of doctor he or she refers you to for diagnosis.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:57 PM on April 24, 2010

Go to a different dentist. Not for work done, just for a consultation. He/she should know more than a GP in this area.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 7:05 PM on April 24, 2010

Have you called and talked to your dentist about this at all? If not, shouldn't that be the very first thing you ought to do?
posted by halogen at 7:11 PM on April 24, 2010

Novacaine is not permanent and only lasts for a few hours, just so you understand. It's unlikely the cause of what you're describing itself. If you were injured it's more likely due to direct trauma to a peripheral nerve presumably via the needle itself. The lingual nerve or other nerves can on rare occasion be injured during dental procedures because even when the novacaine is injected expertly and without operator negligence, the injector still can't see the exact location of any underlying nerves to avoid them. It can take weeks to even months to fully recover from this sort of thing, but the vast majority do.

If I were you I'd discuss it with your dentist first. This appears to be a whole forum dedicated to exactly this subject.
posted by drpynchon at 7:28 PM on April 24, 2010

Definitely go to another dentist for a consult, but also know that local anesthesia (shots of stuff like novocaine or lidocaine) can produce numbness in the surrounding area that will most likely go away within a few months.

I had numbness surrounding a spot where I had a minor in-office procedure (not in my mouth) that lasted for several months (I think 4-5) before all sensation returned.

So go in for a consultation, but be prepared if you wind up having to wait it out.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:32 PM on April 24, 2010

Sorry, I meant that the actual surgery or shot could've caused nerve damage that will heal over time. Basically, what drpynchon said. When I inquired about my situation, I got similar advice from the doctor.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:34 PM on April 24, 2010

Okay, thanks. That's reassuring. I'm prepared to wait it out. It seems like this can happen and that's just the breaks.
posted by diode at 1:50 PM on April 25, 2010

I answered a similar question here
posted by amalgamator at 7:54 PM on April 25, 2010

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