Lidocaine vs. Benzocaine

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  • 0:03 Local Anesthetics
  • 1:05 Common Uses and Forms
  • 3:17 Effectiveness & Side Effects
  • 4:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kaitlin Baker

Kaitlin has taught nursing students and has a master's degree in nursing leaderhsip, as well as a bachelor's degree in English literature.

This lesson compares two local anesthetics: lidocaine and benzocaine. You'll learn to compare and contrast both drugs based on their forms, uses, effectiveness in pain relief, and side effects.

Local Anesthetics

If you've ever had to have a cavity filled, you probably know how helpful having your mouth numbed can be! You may not be able to feel your face for a few hours, but at least you're saved the pain of the drilling. That numbing medication can actually be one of a couple of different drugs. These medications are called local anesthetics, meaning that they reduce pain and sensation in the area where they are applied or injected, without affecting other areas. Unlike general anesthetics, these drugs don't actually cause unconsciousness during a procedure.

When you think of local anesthetics in the dentist's office, you'll probably first think of procaine (brand named Novocaine), but there are other choices for how to numb your mouth or other areas of your body.

Two of the most commonly used local anesthetics are lidocaine and benzocaine. As local anesthetics, the two drugs share many similarities. They also have important differences, and one or the other may be more appropriate for different medical situations. In this lesson, we'll compare these two local anesthetics in their uses and forms, effectiveness in pain relief, and side effects.

Common Uses and Forms


Let's first take a closer look at lidocaine. Lidocaine is used both as an injection and a topical, meaning applied directly on the skin, treatment. Cream, foam, gel, jelly, and patches are just a few of the many forms of topical lidocaine.

  • Lidocaine injection is generally used during dental procedures to numb the mouth and reduce pain.

  • Lidocaine viscous solution is used to treat sore mouth or throat and also to relieve gagging during special x-ray tests and dental impressions.

  • Lidocaine gel is used for topical anesthesia during medical procedures. It's also used to ease the pain and itching of skin problems like sunburn, insect bites, or poison oak.

  • Lidocaine skin patch is used to relieve pain caused by any condition affecting a specific area of the skin, such as the pain caused by shingles.

  • Lidocaine spinal injection can be injected into the spine to dull nerves during medical procedures on the lower body or legs or during labor. In this use, it is considered a regional anesthetic since it's blocking sensations on a large area of the body. It usually lasts less than 90 minutes.

  • Another use is a systemic form of lidocaine that is injected into the veins to help treat cardiac (heart) rhythm problems.


Now, let's take a closer look at benzocaine. Benzocaine is also used as a topical and an injectable solution.

  • Benzocaine injection is used during dental procedures to numb the mouth and reduce pain.

  • Benzocaine gel or ointment is used to reduce pain or discomfort during skin irritations from sunburn, teething, ingrown toenails, and hemorrhoids. It can also be used to ease vaginal or rectal irritation and to reduce pain during medical procedures.

  • Benzocaine spray is also used for skin problems, such as itching and sunburn.

  • Benzocaine throat lozenges are used for a sore throat.

Benzocaine and lidocaine have many similar uses and forms. Lidocaine is more commonly used as a skin patch, in a systemic form for treating cardiac issues, and as a regional anesthetic. Benzocaine is more often used as a topical anesthetic. Both lidocaine and benzocaine also come in lubricant and condom forms as a means to diminish sensation and prevent premature ejaculation.

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