LUBBOCK, Texas, U.S.: Fear of injections is not an uncommon condition, and when coupled with a fear of dentists, some people may avoid dental treatment until the absolute last minute. In new research, scientists from Brazil and the U.S. are testing a strategy to increase the effectiveness of topical anesthesia used in dentistry. Their hope is to reduce patient discomfort and ensure the anesthetic can reach further into the mucosa.
For their study, researchers from Texas Tech University (TTU) and the University of Campinas School of Dentistry of Piracicaba developed a small device that contains 57 microneedles. When this device is placed on the gingivae, cheek or any other location of the mouth to be anesthetized, it creates tiny holes through which anesthetic medications, like lidocaine, can penetrate deeper into regions of the oral mucosa.
According to lead researcher Dr. Harvinder Singh Gill, Associate Professor and Whitacre Endowed Chair of Science and Engineering at TTU, conventional methods of topical anesthesia cannot completely assure protection for the patient. This is particularly true when a deep injection is needed to block a nerve. “That situation causes anxiety for patients and dentists alike, and could compromise the treatment outcome,” said Gill.
Although to date the device has only been tested on ten patients, according to Gill, the outcomes have been positive. However, pain reduction of the injection is not the only area of interest. Other objectives of the study are to measure the pain caused by the 700 μm microneedles, as well as to determine the effectiveness of the system in expanding the area of the topical anesthesia.
The research was funded by the São Paulo Research Foundation and carried out under the scope of its São Paulo Researchers in International Collaboration program.