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Ask the Dentist: Needle in gum may be thing of the past

Dentist Lucy Stock of Gentle Dental Care in Belfast says anaesthetic dental injections are to be relegated to history

Say 'Aaaargh' – dreaded gum injections could soon be just a painful memory
Lucy Stock

VISITING the dentist is the top reason that makes people nervous, closely followed by a fear of heights. People stated that their most common fears for visiting a dentist are having a tooth drilled (30 per cent) and having a local anaesthetic injection (28 per cent).

Some studies suggest that almost 5 per cent of the population may be phobic of needles in general. This leads to postponing and even avoiding dental or medical treatment altogether.

The future has been glimpsed in a Brazilian study that suggests help is on its way to make traditional dental injections a thing of the past. The study looked at how to give anaesthetic using a tiny electric current instead of a needle.

Researchers found that applying the tiny electric current, a process called iontophoresis, made the anaesthetics 12 times more effective by increasing their absorption through the lining of the mouth.

They say the technology has applications not only in dental anaesthesia, but also in other areas such as cancer treatment.

"Over the last few years, our research group has been working on the development of novel drug delivery systems for the treatment of several skin and eye diseases," said Professor Renata Fonseca Vianna Lopez, one of the authors of the study.

The researchers now plan to develop an iontophoretic device to use specifically in the mouth and do some preclinical trials with the system in the future.

For the moment, thought, there are various little things that can be done to make injections easier. For example:

:: Try relaxation techniques the night before and the morning of the dental appointment. There are videos on youtube that will guide you through different breathing and body relaxation techniques that can really help reduce anxiety.

:: Let you dentist know what you are concerned about. Some people are worried about feeling pain, while others don't like the feeling of being numb. Simply by doing this the anxiety can reduce.

:: Be mindful that there are a variety of modern techniques that make injections more comfortable.

It may be that you want to arrange an appointment to only have an injection and no treatment. Dealing with more than one fear at a time can be overwhelming.

Herbal Bach Flower Remedies can also be useful. These are available in pharmacies and health stores. Some dentists also offer sedation for people who require more support.

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