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New dental drug cuts patients recovery time

December 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
More than 17 million people undergo the unpleasant experience of a root canal every year. The anesthetics take away the pain, but can leave you numb for hours. But now a new advance in the dentist's office could make that awkward feeling a thing of the past.Denice Trevino doesn't mind the dentist's office, but she hates the numbness that lasts long after her appointment is over, making it hard to eat, or even talk.

One shot of anesthetic can numb soft tissue in your mouth for three to five hours.

Dentists are trying to ease the inconvenience by using a drug that reverses the effects of anesthetic. After dental work is done under usual anesthetic, dentists give the patients a reversal agent.

"It causes vasodilation, so it makes those blood vessels dilate in the area, and the act of the dilation helps to reverse the affects of the anesthetic," said Dr. Vidya Sankar.

In clinical trials with four common dental anesthetics including lidocaine, the reversal agent got patients back to normal in about an hour -- cutting recovery time in half.

"It shortens the length of anesthetic, soft tissue anesthesia, and return to normal function," said Dr. Sankar.

After just 30 minutes patients see results.

"I can feel it's already starting to wear off, quicker than it usually would," said Trevino.

Denice is feeling comfortable, confident and ready to get back to her busy life.

The FDA recently approved the anti-numbing agent for adults and for kids 6 years old and over. The treatment is generally not covered by insurance.