How I’ve handled several failures at feeling numb at the dentist

I learned a likely reason for my problem, but had to discover a way to get by

Jennifer Lynne avatar

by Jennifer Lynne |

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During the December holiday season, while visiting family in Illinois and Wisconsin, I had an unexpected dental emergency: A crown cracked and fell out. Unfortunately, complications arose when I contracted COVID-19, causing delays in addressing the issue.

When I finally managed to schedule an appointment for the crown repair, I faced an unexpected challenge: I couldn’t be properly numbed. Despite my dentist’s repeated injections to numb me, I still felt the drill during the procedure. The experience was frustrating and uncomfortable for me and my dentist. We gave up and decided to try again in a few weeks.

As anxiety mounted during the second appointment, I felt dread and couldn’t shake it. Sweaty palms and a racing heart only compounded my difficulties. The second try, unfortunately, was a repeat of the first; I couldn’t get numb.

Desperate for answers, I turned to Google to search for a possible explanation. Could my bleeding disorders, hemophilia B and von Willebrand disease, be contributing to this unusual problem? Was I bleeding at the injection site? My search, unfortunately, yielded no direct correlation between bleeding disorders and an inability to get numb.

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Let’s Not Forget the Importance of Dental Care

A link to EDS

However, I stumbled upon pertinent information about Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), which affects the tissues connecting joints, blood vessels, and organs. I was diagnosed with it many years ago, and apparently, it can affect anesthesia effectiveness during dental and medical procedures. One study found, “Among the 980 EDS respondents who had undergone a dental procedure …, 88% (n = 860) recalled inadequate pain prevention.” While this discovery didn’t provide immediate solutions, it shed light on potential factors at play.

My dentist suggested consulting an endodontist, suspecting the need for a root canal. But to our surprise, that specialist ruled out the possibility. Feeling somewhat discouraged, I considered seeking out a dentist with expertise in sedation techniques or laughing gas to alleviate my anxiety and discomfort.

Last week, armed with Tylenol and anti-anxiety medication, I braced myself for yet another attempt. This time, my dentist tried a different numbing technique, a Gow-Gates nerve block, and administered multiple rounds of numbing medication. I practiced deep breathing techniques. Despite still feeling some sensation, the pain was finally manageable. I’m relieved to report that a temporary crown is now in place, with plans for a permanent one in the coming weeks.

This dental saga has been challenging, highlighting the complexities of managing these procedures given my underlying medical conditions. While I still have some unanswered questions, I’m grateful for my dental team’s perseverance and the strategies we’ve employed to address the issue. It’s a reminder of the importance of open communication and collaborative problem-solving in healthcare.

Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


Jessamyn Butler avatar

Jessamyn Butler

Oooooh! I "felt" your story!! I, too, have Ehlers-Danlos and have had a terrible time getting numb (I had all of my teeth removed in 2019, so no more dentist). I always had to go in a half hour ahead of time and get several rounds, like you did. Be aware of the possibility of anesthesia difficulties, as well. Thank you for your article!

Jennifer Lynne avatar

Jennifer Lynne

Hi Jessamyn! Thank you for reading my article and sharing your experience. I was shocked to learn of the correlation between EDS and local anesthesia. I thought I was going crazy or doing something wrong!

K avatar


I have an undefined platelet functioning defect and an EDS diagnosis. I'm a bit of an anomaly in that I have the exact opposite reaction to most EDSers with freezing, opioids, conscious sedation, etc. I don't quite fit the mold of any of the currently described forms of EDS but I'm grateful to have the diagnosis so I can get care that is more appropriate than what I was getting before a diagnosis. I did luck out and my hematologist who runs our bleeding disorders problem has had a long-standing interest in the connection between bleeding disorders and collagen disorders. I thought you might like a link to one of her papers :). Thanks for sharing your story. We need all the awareness we can get!

Jennifer Lynne avatar

Jennifer Lynne

Thank you for sharing the article—it caught my attention. It brought back a memory from when I was around 12 years old. During a visit to my hematologist, he asked if I could bend my thumb to touch my wrist. He mentioned that many of his patients with bleeding disorders exhibited this ability. Since then, I've observed a notable presence of individuals with an EDS diagnosis at bleeding disorder events. I can't help but wonder if there's a deeper connection waiting to be uncovered. Here's hoping that one day, someone will unravel the mystery behind it all!


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