woman smiling after inferior alveolar procedure

Inferior Alveolar: Nerve Block And Dental Pain Control

The lingering numbness after leaving a dental appointment can cause some temporary and often silly issues with your facial appearance and ability to eat or drink. Still, dental pain management using local anesthesia is important for your comfort during dental procedures.

What Does the Injection Do?

A review in the Anesthesia Essays and Researches explains that the inferior alveolar nerve block (IANB) is the most common injection technique in dentistry. It blocks sensation for procedures in the lower jaw, called the mandible. The IANB completely numbs one side of the lower jaw, including the teeth, gums, chin, lower lip and, in some instances, the tongue.

Inferior Alveolar Success

Although this injection is a popular choice for local anesthesia, it has an almost 25 percent failure rate, reports the Anesthesia review. The success rate is affected by the technique that the dentist or dental hygienist uses. This injection must be deposited close to the nerve before it enters the mandibular foramen, an opening in the skull where the lower jaw's nerves and blood vessels enter the oral cavity. This area is at the back of the mouth, behind and above the lower molars. The technique for needle insertion is crucial to affect only the nerve and not the blood vessels in the area.

If anesthesia is successful, the loss of sensation lasts several hours after the dental work is completed.

Inferior Alveolar Uses

Local anesthesia — often referred to as Novocaine, which is a brand name — is achieved by injecting anesthetic agents in targeted areas of the mouth with a needle. The anesthetic agent your dentist uses for you depends on your medical history and what area needs treatment. They will likely use an IANB when they need you to be numb along the entire side of your lower jaw. These procedures can include dental fillings, crowns, extractions of the mandibular molars and periodontal treatment like scaling and root planing.

IANB should not be used in people who can't understand the loss of sensation or how to avoid injury while still numb after the procedure, such as children and people with developmental disabilities.

Inferior Alveolar Side Effects

The most common side effect of anesthesia is injury to the tongue, lips and cheeks from biting these areas as the numbness subsides. Less common are hematoma at the injection site and lingering numbness. This sensation generally affects the lingual nerve serving the tongue, and it eventually subsides.

Although dental pain management is important, not needing anesthesia is even better! Regular dental care, good oral hygiene and a healthy diet may help you avoid dental problems and the need for dental work. Brush with a toothpaste like Colgate Total Daily Repair, which strengthens teeth by remineralizing damaged enamel and fights plaque to keep gums healthy. Taking care of your teeth involves more than just brushing and flossing, though. Remember to visit your dentist regularly.

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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