Articaine: The New "Novocaine"

Going to the dentist is far different than it was decades ago. Certain drug advancements entered the dental market in the early 1970s, including articaine. These revolutionized the way dentists relieve anxiety and pain in the dental chair. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, improvements in pain medications have increased trust and allowed for better relationships between dental professionals and their patients.

The Decline of Novocaine

A historical review by the American Dental Association reports that anesthesia was discovered in the mid-1800s and has evolved ever since. At one time, many dental providers injected Novocaine (procaine) into the gum tissue to numb dental sensitivity and pain. Patients may have an allergic reaction to Novocaine, though, leading dental professionals may turn to a substitute.

A Safe Alternative

Articaine is one of the medications that has replaced Novocaine for many dental procedures that require injectable anesthesia. It has been found to be safe, effective and dependable, according to PennWell.

Although it is very effective, this type is not the most widely used dental anesthetic.

Compared to Lidocaine

Lidocaine (also known as xylocaine or lignocaine) is widely used as an injectable anesthetic. According to RDH Magazine, lidocaine is considered the "gold standard" of local anesthetics. It creates relatively low adverse reactions and has been used in dentistry in the United States for 50 years longer than articaine.

However, articaine is a longer-acting drug than lidocaine, and is often chosen for periodontal, restorative or surgical procedures for which the medication's effects need to last longer.

Considerations and Aftercare

As with many medications that are processed in the liver and kidneys, people who have problems with these organs should consult their physician before being treated with articaine or other local anesthetic drugs.

Following all dental procedures that used anesthetic medication, be careful that you don't injure the numbed tissue or area by biting or normal chewing. You should also consider the use of an antimicrobial toothpaste, such as Colgate Total Clean Mint. Its fluoride formula strengthens teeth to help prevent cavities.

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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  1. Preparation – If you need local anesthesia, your dentist will dry part of your mouth with air or use cotton rolls. Then your dentist will swab the area with a gel to numb the skin.

  2. Injection – Next, your dentist will slowly inject the local anesthetic into the gum tissue. Most people don't feel the needle. Instead, the sting they feel is caused by the anesthetic moving into the tissue.

  3. After effects – An injection of local anesthesia can last up to several hours. After you leave the dentist's office, you may find it difficult to speak clearly and eat or drink. Be careful not to bite down on the area that is numbed. You could cause damage to yourself without realizing it.