Discovery May Eliminate Needles at the Dentist

One of the most commonly cited reasons for avoiding the dentist is fear of associated pain, especially from needles. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from anxiety because of this, I have great news for you! New research out of the University of São Paulo has shown that anesthesia at the dental office can be administered using a tiny electric current instead of a needle. In addition to bringing relief to those who are scared of needles, this new discovery could also save money and help avoid contamination and infection, according to a recent article from Science Daily.

“Needle-free administration could save costs, improve patient compliance, facilitate application and decrease the risks of intoxication and contamination,” said Professor Renata Fonseca Vianna Lopez, of the the study’s authors. “This may facilitate access to more effective and safe dental treatments for thousands of people around the world.”

Traditionally, dentists use anesthetics (administered using needles) to block pain that may occur during common, necessary procedures in the mouth. In order to ease the anxiety and fear that some patients experience with this, dentists may use a topical painkiller to reduce the pain. Unfortunately, many patients end of avoiding the dentist, postponing (or cancelling) their treatment, in an effort to skip the pain. This can lead to more significant issues down the road, not only in the mouth, but all over the body.

Researchers in the study found that applying a tiny electric current, called iontophoresis, to the area of the mouth prepped with two anesthetic drugs, prilocaine hydrochloride (PCL) and lidocaine hydrochloride (LCL), made the drugs more effective. In fact, the anesthesia was fast-acting and long-lasting, eliminating the need for needles in delivery. Researchers are hopeful that the technology will prove useful not only in dentistry, but in other areas where drug delivery is difficult, such as in the treatment of skin and eye diseases.

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