You know that problem child molar I just had worked on for the nth time? The one that required heroic measures and possibly divine intervention a couple of weeks ago? I went in yesterday to get the permanent crown installed.
It seemed like a pretty standard routine: Sit down, get the topical gel, and then out came the local anesthetic. My dentist went in for the first jab.
And hit the nerve.
For a good many years, I'd been afraid of just such a thing happening. It was only in the past year or so that I'd gotten over it.
The shock (it wasn't even pain, per se) felt like somebody without any particular skill had punched me in the face, the sensation of which radiated up into my cheek, across the front of my mandible, and up into my nose. I'm not sure how far off the chair I got but I distinctly recall getting some hangtime as every muscle in my body suddenly contracted.
This was one of those strange moments in life where every neuron you have - every single corner of your brain, every nook and cranny - starts firing simultaneously whether or not it was originally meant to, all to solve one particular problem. My problem was that I was laying in a dentist's chair with a rather long needle stuck in my jaw, a rather large nerve going off like it was the Fourth of July, and for reasons I still don't understand, a bladder that went from empty to full within a span of pehaps 0.2 seconds. The only solution to my dilemma was to undergo the full course of injections to knock out the nerve in as close to Planck time as possible. So, how to get from point 'a' to point 'b', and then to point 'c' (the restroom) without having a heart attack?
I dug my nails into the armrests, forced myself to make just enough noise to convey that I was, in point of fact, in great distress (girly scream, stuck pig, Roger Rabbit after a double, call it whatever you want), but to please finish the damned injections. My dentist, who somehow also has attained the patience of Shakyamuni politely explained that occasionally branches of the inferior alveolar nerve exit the mandibular canal in unusual places due to natural variation (not that I have any experience) and to please hold as still as possible while he worked to remediate an unexpected situation. The utterly strange thing was, just as the bizarre sensations of the nerve misfiring cascaded up and around my face, a feeling of mossy, fleece-like warmth chased after them as some quantity of septocaine went in and was presumably percolating along the nerve trunks like a prop in a bad science fiction movie.
Long story short, once taking care of the panic reaction (yes, I sprinted as fast as I could - wouldn't you?) and sitting down again, the septocaine had done its job (science.. and.. technology...) and I was feeling quite ready to have the permanent crown installed. I'm told that the phenomenon in question is called a bullseye, and they're fairly rare. For what it's worth, as I type this post it's been about five hours since the procedure (the numbness wore off around the four hours thirty mark, give or take a bit) and I don't feel too bad. I'm certainly not feeling any of the short-circuiting nerve problems that I'd always thought would happen after nailing a sensory nerve directly with a stainless steel needle, nor do I seem to have lost any flexibility or controllability over my face. I will note that the shaking in my hands has pretty much worn off and my hearts are no longer pounding (it's very common to combine local anesthetics with epinephrine due to its vasoconstrictive properties; it prevents the local from wearing off too fast and minimizes bleeding for more invasive procedures, but unfortunately it slowly washes into the bloodstream).