Moving the needle

July 1, 2019

The age of needle-free anesthesia in dentistry may be closer than we think. And in fact, the age of anesthesia-free dentisry may be close too. Within the past five years, technologies such as the Solea laser and pharmaceuticals such as Kovanase nasal spray have eliminated the need for anesthetic injections in some dental procedures. Personally, I had a visceral response when I first learned about Solea. As a kid, I had extensive dental and maxillofacial surgery related to a cleft lip and palate. The memories of going to my dentist year after year (and sometimes week after week) for needles in the roof of my mouth still cause me mental discomfort. So when I learned that needles were going away—at least for some things—it was the kind of moment where you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. It was the same experience I had when I was working in broadcast production in 2007 and saw an iPhone play a video, or when I was at the Dental Trade Alliance annual meeting in 2014 and got to test drive a Tesla. You think some things will never happen—be they pocket-sized computers or sustainable transporation—and then they do. Suddenly, the future looks entirely different.

But in terms of needle-free dentistry, we’re not there yet. And until then, the administration of anesthesia via needles is of exceptional importance for dental hygienists, dentists, and our industry. Needles and drills are two instruments that are in large part to blame for dentistry’s loathsome reputation. Needles and drills keep dentalphobes up at night. They create indelible memories that keep people away from dental practices for years . . . until excruciating tooth pain and resignation drive them back.

This month’s cover story by Laura J. Webb, “Local anesthesia: Tips and tricks for learning and refreshing skills” (p. 42), is an excellent read. Webb’s article will no doubt motivate many of you to give local anesthesia a second look—whether you are new to hygiene or a seasoned professional. Webb describes new developments in local anesthesia, from products to pharmaceuticals to techniques, that will give you the courage to elevate your clinical skills and inspire newfound confidence.

In her article, Webb writes, “Forty years ago, I began providing local anesthesia for my patients. I can’t imagine practicing without it.” Follow her lead and make your local anesthesia skills something you take pride in. When you are confident in your skills, patients notice and begin to trust. And when that happens, you can make dentistry not about needles and drills, but about a lifetime of oral health.