What's a Dental Block? 4 Things You Should Know

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When you're having significant dental work done, your dentist will likely suggest a dental block as part of the procedure. Don't panic: The block is actually administered for your comfort, as it helps to block pain sensations from your nerves while your dentist works on your teeth. Still, you may feel more confident if you understand what's happening when your dentist uses a block and what it means for your recovery. Here are four things you should know.

1. Why Use One?

Your mouth is full of nerves, so that's why your mouth is extremely sensitive to pain. When your dentist needs to drain an abscess, drill a cavity, perform a root canal, fix a dry socket, or perform any other procedure to repair and protect your teeth, the treatment may cause pain. The block is used to numb the nerves in your mouth to dull the pain and increase your comfort level during the procedure.

2. How Is a Block Administered?

Your dentist will locate the major nerve closest to the site of your dental work. According to Medscape, there are 11 different areas in which the block is precisely injected to numb the nerves. Here's what you can expect.

  1. Your dentist will locate the major nerve area based on the location and type of dental work.

  2. A topical numbing agent (such as lidocaine) will be applied to the injection site using a cotton swab. This helps to numb the pain from the injection itself.

  3. The block is injected into the site.

  4. Your dentist will allow the block to numb your mouth for a few minutes before beginning work.

There is minor pain associated with a block, but, thanks to the topical numbing agent, it will be short-lived. The injection might be described as a pinch or minor burning sensation. After the block has been administered, you'll feel your mouth and teeth becoming gradually number.

3. What's the Recovery Time?

Depending on its strength and your tolerance, a block can last an hour or two. You won't need to do anything special to recover, but you should be careful eating and drinking as the block wears off, since you might inadvertently bite your tongue or the sides of your cheek. Ask your dentist when you can resume regular oral care. The block won't prohibit you from brushing and flossing as usual, but after-care instructions may require rinsing gently with an alcohol free mouthwash, such as Colgate Total Advanced Pro-Shield, which significantly reduces plaque.

4. Are There Other Options?

If you're nervous about the idea of a dental block, talk to your dentist about your fears. While you probably won't want to forgo the block completely, you can ask for an anti-anxiety agent, such as nitrous oxide, or explore sedation dentistry to help calm your fears and feel more comfortable.

Your dentist wants you to feel comfortable and confident for your appointment, and using a block is one way to help numb the pain while still giving you the care that you need. Ask as many questions as you'd like and make sure that you educate yourself about the procedures and any recovery instructions so you'll be able to relax at your next appointment.

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