Researchers are currently developing a new way to administer dental anesthetic that may dramatically reduce, or even eliminate the need for, injection-based anesthetics.
The new method is not yet available in dental practices. But researchers said they hope that when it is, it will inspire people who otherwise avoid dental treatment over a fear of needles to get the care they need.
Some restorative and cosmetic dentistry treatments employ anesthetics to inhibit sensations of pain, and to provide a state of relaxation and motionlessness that eases access to the cramped confines of the mouth. For dental treatments, anesthetics are most often delivered through a pin-like needle.
The discomfort of a dental anesthetic is momentary, but the fear associated with the injection is strong enough to prevent people from undergoing dental treatments that could otherwise preserve their smiles and their oral health. While an additional topical solution can desensitize the injection site, this is often not sufficient incentive for people with a genuine fear of needles.
Giving Dental Anesthetics a Charge
There are so-called “needleless” options for dental anesthetics, but these methods still use a pressure-based approach to deliver anesthesia, and they are not as widely covered by insurance providers as traditional anesthesia when it comes to restorative treatments. Earlier this year, scientists with the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil published the findings of research into a needle- and pressure-free solution, and their conclusion may at first seem shocking.
Researchers started with a topical anesthetic, which they combined with a polymer that allowed the gel-like solution to adhere to the interior surface of the mouth. Then they applied a low electrical current to promote iontophoresis, a process through which the body absorbs ionic (or charged) chemical compounds.
The method was not only effective in delivering the anesthetic, but it helped the medication work more rapidly and lengthened the span of its efficacy. Additional trials are still necessary, and researchers have yet to develop a cost-effective delivery device. But the approach holds significant promise for dentistry and other medical fields.
The Very Real Fear of Needles
Perhaps most importantly, the research provides hope for those with needle phobia. The fear of needles is recognized as a phobia by the American Psychiatric Association, and between 10 and 25 percent of American adults are believed to suffer from needle phobia.
One of the unfortunate byproducts of needle phobia is that it keeps people from pursuing dental care and other types of medical attention. Sedation dentistry, in which an oral sedative is taken prior to treatment to induce a deep state of relaxation, is an option for some procedures, but others require an anesthetic.
Rockland County dentist Dr. Mark Dunayer believes that fear of needles or dental treatment should not prevent you from receiving necessary dental care. In addition to comprehensive dental treatments, Dr. Dunayer offers sedation dentistry, and his compassionate approach has helped put at ease many who suffer from dental anxiety or fear of needles. Please call B & D Dental Excellence at (845) 627-7645 to schedule your appointment at our West Nyack, NY, office.