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FAQ:  Novocaine



Question:
Bad Reaction to Novacaine: I recently had a bad reaction to novacaine when I went to the Dentist.

I've also recently developed a bad allergy to wheat and gluten. Does novacaine contain either? I am worried about some kind of allergic syndrome developing. ...Visitor from IL

Answer:
You did not say what kind of reaction you had from the Novacaine type anesthetic. Novacaine was a brand name of a dental local anesthetic that was discontinued years ago. People use the term Novacaine like a generic term for local anesthetic similar to how we call all brands of facial tissue "kleenex."

I am not aware of any wheat of glutin ingredients being a part of any local dental anesthetic. The ingredient that causes the most reactions in patients is the epinepherine that is part of some local anesthetics.

In order to keep teeth numb for long dental procedures or to stop bleeding around the gum of a tooth that is going to be restored, the epinepherine in the local anesthetic constricts blood vessels in the area where it is injected.

The reason is two fold: First, the epinepherine constricts blood vessels which stops any bleeding in the area. Second, it prevents the blood stream from diluting and transporting the anesthetic away from the area thus keeping the tooth numb for long appointments.

The body is a wonderous thing because it detects that somewhere in the body that some blood vessels are getting constricted. The brain senses this and sends out signals to the heart to start pumping faster and harder to "open" these constricted blood vessels.

This is the reaction that most dental patients think is an allergic or bad reaction to the anesthetic.

At this point a patient may feel like their heart rate has increased or that they feel a little lightheaded. After about 30-60 seconds your body adjusts to the epinepherine effects of the local anesthetic and the heart rate returns to normal.

For patients who are overly sensitive to the effects of epinepherine, there are many local dental anesthetics without this ingredient added.

I hope this information has helped you understand the reactions that you may have had on your recent dental appointment. It also may be a good idea to inform your dental team about how the "Novacaine" made you feel during your last appointment. Have them use a non-epinepherine local anesthetic during your next appointment to see if it helps.

Editorial Staff

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