The first-ever drug aimed at undoing the effects of local dental anaesthesia has been given the go-ahead in the US.
In clinical trials, the drug cut the median time it took for full sensation to return to the lips by about 75 to 85 minutes, or by more than half.
Called OraVerse, it was developed by Novalar Pharmaceuticals, a small drugs company in San Diego, US who have now won approval to market it in the States.
The company said it would begin selling the drug to American dentists late this year for $12.50 an injection.
It’s unconfirmed yet whether it will be made available in the UK.
After a dentist finishes a procedure, OraVerse will be injected into the same spot where the anaesthetic had been injected.
The company says it may be especially useful for children, who are more likely to injure themselves by biting their lip or tongue without knowing it.
The drug, however, is not approved for children younger than six years of age or weighing less than 33lbs.
Investigators in its clinical trials believe the drug would also appeal to patients receiving cosmetic dentistry ‘who like to look good when they leave the dentist’s office’.
OraVerse is a formulation of the drug, phentolamine mesylate, which is used to treat severe episodes of hypertension.
When dentists administer lidocaine or another local anaesthetic, they usually combine it with epinephrine, which acts to constrict the blood vessels that keeps the blood from carrying away the anaesthetic from the mouth too quickly.
OraVerse does the opposite, dilating the blood vessels and speeding up blood flow so the anaesthetic can be carried away.
‘We aren’t reversing the local anaesthesia,’ said Dr. Paul A Moore, chairman of anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine, who is an adviser to Novalar. ‘It is reversing the epinephrine.’