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5 Things You Should Know About Dental Blocks

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

As your dentist talks to you about a future dental procedure, you may hear the term dental block or an oral nerve block. Don't panic. Dental blocks help numb pain sensations from your nerves as your dental professional works on your teeth. Still, you may feel more confident on the day of the procedure if you understand more. Read on to learn five important things about dental blocks.

1. What is a Dental Block?

A dental block is a colloquial term for anesthetizing (numbing) the area of the mouth before a dental procedure. Also called regional anesthesia or a nerve block because many blocks numb the alveolar nerve. Blocking sensation in the alveolar nerve will numb the teeth, jaw, or lips. But there are many different areas where a dentist or oral surgeon can use anesthesia for a dental procedure.

2. Why are Dental Blocks Helpful?

Your mouth is full of nerves, so that's why your mouth is susceptible to pain. Throughout your life, your dentist may need to treat an abscess, drill a cavity, perform a root canal, fix a dry socket, or perform any other procedure to repair and protect your teeth. Dental blocks are used to numb the nerves in your mouth to dull the pain and increase your comfort level during the procedure.

3. How is a Block Administered?

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

  • Your dentist will locate the major nerve area based on the location and type of dental work.
  • 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.
  • The block is injected into the site.
  • 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. Still, it may feel like a pinch or minor burning sensation thanks to the topical numbing agent. After the block has been administered, you'll feel your mouth and teeth becoming gradually more numb.

4. How Long Does a Dental Block Last?

A block can last an hour or two, but every situation is unique. You won't need to do anything special to recover. Still, 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. After-care instructions may require rinsing gently with an alcohol-free mouthwash.

5. Are There Other Options?

If you're nervous about the idea of a dental block, talk to your dentist about your fears. 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.

You want to feel comfortable and confident for your procedure, and using a block is one way to help numb the pain while still giving you the care you need. Ask questions 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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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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