Here Comes the Javelin

April 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. Buck @ 1:41 pm

I had a patient joke the other day that the dental injection used to remind him of someone taking a javelin and sticking it into his gums because it seems so huge when it’s coming at you. That wouldn’t be terminology that I would use, but it is quite intimidating when you are getting anesthetized to have your teeth worked on.
Anesthesia is the double edge sword of dentistry (just a metaphor). You don’t want to feel pain when I’m cleaning out the rot in your tooth, but getting numb can be uncomfortable and cause anxiety. The number one reason patients do not come to the dentist is the fear of the injection. The mere mention of dental shots and people get this serious, anxious look in their eyes. And who can blame them, when you are taking a big silver instrument that has a 1.5 inch needle attached into a space that is only about 4-6 square inches, I get the sense of claustrophobia and anxiety just writing about it. We used to have to practice on each other in dental school. Who makes better guinea pigs that each other in dental school? Having some student with a shaky hand coming at you with a large syringe will make you contemplate a career change.
Many times the reason that people have this fear is because they had some heavy handed dentist in the 1960s jam the anesthetic in the tissue as fast as he could. That’s a tough memory to shake, but in reality there are three main reasons why injections hurt. One is the initial puncture into the tissue. Second is that anesthetic is an acidic solution and cold. The body wants things brought in that are the same temperature as the body itself and are neutral in pH. The last is that the injection is put in too fast. Eliminate those things and injections are relatively painless.
Given that this is the thing that is feared the most in a dental office, we do everything we can to make these injections as painless as possible. Here’s what we do at our office. I use a topical anesthetic that is compounded at a pharmacy consisting of three types of strong anesthetics instead of using the generic topicals that only have one weaker anesthetic. Better absorption into your gum tissue and less “pinch” when we inject. Our anesthetics are warmed to a temperature that is similar to your body temperature. And last, we use The Wand. You can take a look at a video we posted on our blog a while back (Oct 19, 2011) It puts the anesthetic in a controlled rate so you don’t have that burning sensation from the acidic solution. The needle is attached to a small plastic holder (looks like a wand) so no more big scary silver syringe. Many times patients tell us they didn’t feel anything at all or it was the easiest injections they’ve ever had. The point is that it’s less stressful for the patient and us (contrary to what the media may put out there, dentists do not like to hurt people). So the next time your in our office and want to see what this thing is all about, just ask because I love to show how technology can make your experience a better one. But remember, if you don’t like shots regardless of how they’re given, just avoid them. Good oral hygiene including flossing and brushing and keep up with your checkups including exams, x-rays, and cleanings so you can avoid getting cavities in the first place.