A dental expert separates facts from myths, explaining how dentistry has gone from a ‘nightmare’ to a dream come true…
When asked what their biggest fear is, many people consider a dental visit to be on the same level as the fear of flying, snakes or even death itself. In fact one woman described how she gets more nervous in her dentist’s office than she was in her maternity ward during childbirth. This instinctive anxiety is worsened by ‘triggers’ like the sound of a dentist’s drill. The irony is that the more you avoid a dentist, the more you need one – since any untreated dental conditions may deteriorate with every meal without regular check-ups.
During my almost two decades experience, I have learned that as dentists we must focus not only on the medical aspects but also the psychological side to reassure patients. The more relaxed a patient, the easier the dentist’s job. But this becomes a dozen times harder when the patient is a child.
After looking deeper into what scares patients so much, the biggest culprit seems to be the dental syringe. Ironically patients associate the syringe with pain, despite the fact that it is meant to numb the gums from pain. Yes, painless injections are achievable at times, but it’s simply unrealistic to expect a conventional dental syringe to painlessly deliver local anesthesia to all locations. It’s remarkable that in such a fast-evolving field, the syringe has barely changed at all since its invention 150 years ago.
Fortunately, a 21st century innovation that I first used with patients at Dubai’s NICE CARE Medical Center, has been a total game-changer: the STA (single tooth anesthesia) system. This consists of a smart microprocessor, connected to a pen-like ‘wand’ which the dentist holds to aim the anesthesia onto the desired target within the mouth.
YouTube is flooded with humorous videos of patients who have just visited the dentist and are totally numb in their lips, tongue and cheeks, leading to hilariously slurred speech. But with this sophisticated STA system, you’ll go home with normal speech, showing off your dazzling new smile.
The fear of a syringe is universal – for instance it’s the biggest reason why many people avoid donating blood, even though they know it saves lives. Although many patients believe the pain comes from inserting the needle, this is a myth: most of the pain actually comes from the flow of the anesthetic. Fortunately this new innovation automatically compensates for different tissue densities, meaning the anesthetic is delivered at a constant pressure and the injection is hardly felt at all. Often when my patients ask when the injection is coming, you should see their smiles when I tell them I have already injected them!
The solution spreads in all directions at once and if the needle is close to the target, more anesthetic will reach the nerve instead of surrounding tissues. This reduces the need for multiple injections, significantly saving time and comfort.
Gone are the days when you’d hear horror stories of patients being injected six or more times, emerging with their whole mouth, throat and half their face numb for an eternity afterwards!
Not to mention that we as dentists will look much less intimidating holding a pen-like device as opposed to holding a syringe. I’m thrilled because this innovation will change the perception of dentists. No more will we be the worst nightmare of many adults, and a threat used to frighten naughty children.