Needle-free pain relief beckons at last

Dental phobia remains high (25 per cent of Brits suffer from anxiety before a visit) and explains why a quarter of adults haven’t seen a dentist in the past two years and three in ten suffer from regular dental pain.

Fear of the needle in anaesthetic injections is one of the main causes of fear and a study has found a novel solution: using electric currents to allow novocaine to penetrate through tissue membranes instead.

The technique hasn’t yet been clinically approved but it offers a glimpse of how dentists are going to finally win over their most anxious patients with completely pain free care.

The process, called iontophoresis, involves sending topical anaesthetic hydrogels (which are normally placed onto the skin before a novocaine needle is inserted) directly into the skin through the electric current, which makes their penetration into the body 12 times as fast.

The University of São Paulo researchers said: “Needle-free administration could save costs, improve patient compliance, facilitate application and decrease the risks of intoxication and contamination.”

The scientists, who used a pig to carry out their experiment, plan to develop an iontophoretic device to use in the mouth – one to watch out for if you want to be a leader in pain free dentistry.

The study was published in the journal Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces.

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