No Need For Needles — Dentists are Using Tiny Electrical Shocks to Administer Anasthetic

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For many, a visit to the dentist is an unwanted and terrifying prospect — particularly for those who are afraid of needles. With this in mind, researchers from the University of Sao Paolo set out to find a way to deliver anesthesia to dental patients without using needles.

In a recent study published in Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, the researchers shared their findings and results. They claim that they could not only eliminate the use of needles in the anesthesia process but could also potentially save on costs and improve the outcome of such procedures.

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

Typically, dentists use anesthetics to minimize the pain of common procedures brought on by tooth decay. And considering tooth decay is five times more common than asthma and four times more common than childhood obesity, many a dental patient will receive anesthetic treatment at some point.

However, a fear of needles often stops patients from receiving treatment altogether. According to the study, those who are extremely afraid of needles will often cancel their appointments as a result.

Instead, the researchers have determined that a tiny electrical current — through what is called iontophoresis — will make the anesthetics more effective while reducing the amount of pain, fear, and discomfort the patient experiences.

For the study, the researchers first prepared a polymer hydrogel that would better stick to the mouth’s lining. From there, they added two anesthetic drugs — prilocaine hydrochloride and lidocaine hydrochloride.

They then tested the gel on the mouth lining of a pig. In result, the researchers found the administered anesthesia kicked in faster and lasted longer, and the electric current made the anesthetic enter the body more readily.

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