Needle-Free Dental Anesthetic Just Made Your Next Root Canal Seem — Well, Slightly Less Horrible
Are you so scared of needles that you've convinced yourself that the shot before a dental procedure must hurt worse than the procedure itself? Did you wish on shooting stars and birthday candles for a needle free anesthetic at the dentist? Do shivers run down your spine at even the thought of that long, slender, silver, sharp, cold tool of the devil? Do you wince with phantom sympathy when you watch a character get pricked by a needle on TV? Do you try to avoid any procedures that might involve a needle at all cost, regardless of how much serious the issue might be? Well, gotcha, thanks for all your wishing. The folks over at Sao Paulo University heard you loud and clear and got hard to work on developing a way to administer the anesthetic without breaking the skin. Apparently you're not the only one who takes issue with needles.
The aversion to needles is so real and so widespread that many people cancel their procedure appointments last minute or avoid going to the dentist altogether. And while the fear of needles is a very real issue, needles themselves come with a slew of their own issues like infection, contamination, and intoxication. Not to mention, the upkeep and sanitation required to keep needles safe and properly dispose of them is not particularly cheap, so researchers and doctors alike are all, "See ya never, needles!"
The new process is called iontophoresis. It's an electric current method that stimulates and activates a gel version of the anesthetic (prilocaine hydrochloride (PCL) and lidocaine hydrochloride (LCL)), allowing it to penetrate deeply into the skin of the mouth. The method is so effective (both fast-acting and long-lasting) and the anesthetic is absorbed so thoroughly that it's much more potent than it would be using the injection method — twelve times as much.
As of right now, this method has only been used on the mouth lining of test pigs in a lab in Brazil. But researchers are confident that the industry-changing method will soon be brought to patient use. This method could even extend beyond the dentistry and could be used to substitute many needle procedures that cancer patients have to endure. But before you get too excited about your next visit to the dentist or go to town on sweets, having lost your fear of cavities, remember that these things take time. The next step will be preclinical trials, so it could be a little while before the method is patient ready. Perhaps it's good to have a small dose of healthy fear regarding dental procedures, so long as it scares you away from neglecting to take care of yourself!