Ever gotten your teeth cleaned... on drugs?
February 27, 2015 10:24 AM   Subscribe

I desperately, desperately needed to go to the dentist, and when I went this morning I was scheduled for 1) a deep cleaning and 2) 5 cavity fillings. For the cleaning I'm told I can get a topical anesthetic and have it done in one appointment, or get an injection and have it done in two. I'd like to limit it to one appointment, as I'm already on the hook for two more for the cavities, so I was thinking: would it be a terrible idea to take a random painkiller (say, a norco or an oxy) that I have lying around before I go? I'm usually a tough guy about stuff like this, but after several years without going to the dentist, just the regular cleaning hurt like hell.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should consult your dentist. Or find one that will give you the gas.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:26 AM on February 27, 2015 [8 favorites]

You can just call your dentist now and tell them you're a really nervous patient. They might prescribe you one pill of valium to take in advance. You could also take a couple of Advil before your appointment.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:27 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would be a bad idea if you were driving yourself.

Medically, you really should clear it with the dentist (and obtain transportation), but you shouldn't expect any dramatic pushback if it's that important to you. They may try to urge you to use an OTC nsaid instead, for swelling reasons.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:28 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I got the entire root scaling/deep cleaning done all in one swoop with injections. No pain at all and only some soreness after (which was easily managed with Advil). Most people don't want to sit in the chair for that long, so most dentists split it up. But, when I requested doing it all at once, they had no problem with it.

But, as long as you're not driving, I don't see a problem with a pain pill. I'd probably save the pain pill for a more painful emergency, though.
posted by quince at 10:43 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Call your dentist's office and ask. This isn't at all a weird request.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:46 AM on February 27, 2015

Don't take medicine without telling the person putting power tools in your mouth.
posted by destructive cactus at 10:48 AM on February 27, 2015 [18 favorites]

I have found that if you ask them to really slather on the topical it can be quite effective. That said-- I find dental procedures exhausting (I'm very tense the entire time). I think setting a pace for a series of shorter (1 hour (or so) once a week) visits is more manageable.
posted by cleroy at 10:55 AM on February 27, 2015

I have dental fear and sensitive teeth (like medically diagnosed extra nerves) and usually take a cocktail of advil, codeine and Ativan before I go, it helps.
posted by Cosine at 10:57 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I hear some dentists use sonic scalers that are better tolerated by fearful patients. Look into that.
posted by Dragonness at 11:10 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

In my experience, a sedative like Valium is more helpful for dental work than painkillers.

Nthing to call your dentist's office and ask -- medicating fearful patients to make the experience better for them is part of their job and they will know what you can and can't take before having work done.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:39 AM on February 27, 2015

I was prescribed a bit of xanax by a periodontist before oral surgery, so it's not unheard of, but as others have said, trust your dentist, describe your issues, and they'll help you through. For me, they put topical everywhere except for one spot that was so sensitive I needed a shot. I fussed so much about my sensitive teeth that that particular issue was addressed with a fluoride varnish at my last cleaning and it has been much much better since.
posted by janey47 at 11:47 AM on February 27, 2015

Yeah, just talk this through. I was in pretty much the exact same position as you and in the end just ended up with a megadose of Novocain. Which apparently my body processes like whoa, so they re-upped. My mom gets xanax prescribed for her visits. It's not a big deal, but you need to communicate with them. Good dentists can also get really close to the nerves with the injections, so it's more effective.
posted by klangklangston at 12:19 PM on February 27, 2015

Something I recently learned is that there is a wide range of safe doses of novocain - some people just need a bit; others like me need seven freaking shots to get anything done. You can always ask for more, even mid-procedure. I've had the deep cleaning and it wasn't much more complicated than an ordinary cleaning. Certainly not painful, though I did have to raise my hand midway and say I was feeling a bit of pain. Any reputable dentist will give you the drugs you need to get you through the procedure with the minimum of discomfort.
posted by jessicapierce at 12:40 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've had my dentist prescribe Valium for me for a scary procedure (though not for scaling), so I would just ask if this is possible. Having a super tense person in the seat makes things more difficult for them, as well, so I think most dentists are ok with this sort of thing. I wouldn't take something and not tell them, just on the off chance that the thing you choose interacts with the injection or something weird like that. And, of course, make sure you have someone to take you home (when I did this, I thought I'd be fine because I was walking rather than driving...although I did make it home safely, it's not something I'd recommend...)

On the one visit-two visit thing, it may be an insurance thing. I had the deep scaling recently, and for some weird reason my insurance would only cover the injections if it was split into two visits. Even with the injections, it was painful enough that I'd recommend going that route even if you need to split it into two visits (at least if you are a dentist-averse person like me!).
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:40 PM on February 27, 2015

Also, ask if you can have some of the cavities done at the same time as the deep cleaning, as long as you'll be numbed anyway. That's how I did it, and it saved a bunch of time and appointments.
posted by jessicapierce at 12:41 PM on February 27, 2015

Ask for a valium drip and get it all done at once. The dentist and hygienist can work in peace on a relaxed patient, and you won't even be there. You will be in your happy place.
posted by caryatid at 2:40 PM on February 27, 2015

I have had dental anxiety for years, since I was a kid.

The guy who I go to now is an absolute magician with the Novocaine, but when I first saw him he saw I was flinching and scrunching up and asked me if I wanted a Valium. I take the Valium, and I'm now really relaxed, scrunched up.

He asks me if I want the gas. Sure! He fits this wacky contraption over my nose, I take two deep breaths and the entire world does that thing in South Park where Kyle's dad takes the cat pee drugs. The entire world shifted ten degrees counter-clockwise and that drop ceiling was so intense, so intense.

And he did two root canals and a couple cavities at once, and I didn't even flinch. Had to call my girlfriend to come pick me up though.
posted by Sphinx at 5:54 PM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have horrible dental anxiety and when I saw the dentist in January, he recommended a deep cleaning and said they could sedate me for it, probably because I was shaking in the chair.

I think at the very least you should be able to get a valium or equivalent plus lots of novocaine. Take whatever you need to help you get through it. Good luck!
posted by knolan at 5:58 PM on February 27, 2015

Slightly on-topic PSA

For anyone prone to anxiety/tension or of a somewhat HSP temperament, be aware that novocaine commonly contains epinephrine (like adrenaline). This is apparently to keep the numbing agent in place longer. I didn't know this and thought I was having a heart attack by the way it made my heart race.

Now, if I have to have work done, I make sure they have and use novocaine without epinephrine.
posted by dancing leaves at 4:44 AM on February 28, 2015

I did this one or twice and it helped but not greatly. Certainly no magic bullet. What did work was telling my dentists 'I have had a lot done and it always take three times as much novacaine as you would think to get anything done. I've been like this since my first filings as a child. So let's save time and just give me a whopper dose.'
posted by K.P. at 7:56 AM on February 28, 2015

I'd be wary of self-medicating beforehand because some painkillers are mixed with ingredients that can cause or increase bleeding. Some slight bleeding may be expected with even minor dental procedures and if you increase that, you may experience stomach upset later due to swallowing some blood. Nausea would not be cool if you don't want to throw up via your sensitive mouth. (Sorry if that was gross.) Also, whatever you take may interact in unexpected ways with whatever meds your dentist does give you. I bet your dentist would be willing to give you one or two pills; it is not like they are prescribing an amount that might make you dependent on whatever.
posted by Morrigan at 3:48 PM on February 28, 2015

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