5 tips for anxiety-free injections

Jan. 17, 2023
Sometimes anxious about injections? This video and article from Hygiene Edge on common errors with the IA injection can help make it pain- and anxiety-free for the patient—and for you.

Do you remember the very first injection you gave? For some reason in dental hygiene school, there is so much buildup around giving your first injection. I think I was even more nervous to be the patient than to actually give the injection. However, from that first day in “stab lab” to now giving injections or teaching about them all the time, I have learned a thing or two to help make them go more smoothly.

Here are a few helpful tips to make your next injection go a bit better, especially if you’re just starting out. With a bit of deep breathing and practice, you’ll be the one patients request to get them numb in no time.

Be calm

I know calm seems really hard when you are nervous, but patients can definitely feel your nervous energy. If you can stay as calm as possible, do some deep breathing, review your injection before giving it—really anything to keep you calm—it will definitely make the injection go a lot smoother. It seems when patients are nervous to get an injection, I can feel their nervous energy, and it makes me a little bit nervous and vice versa. The more you give injections, the more comfortable you will feel—so don’t shy away from giving the next injection in your office.

Also from Hygiene Edge:

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Let the patient know about a possible “zing” feeling

We all know that getting local anesthesia can cause tenderness, and some actually cause a zinging feeling if you hit the nerve. Let the patient know that that feeling is totally normal. Preemptively telling them will definitely help them feel at ease if it ends up happening.

One patient I was giving an injection felt that nerve sensitization. They thought it was abnormal, had a bit of a pain attack, and ran out of the office right after we were finished with the shot. That’s a story for another day, but definitely prepping the patient beforehand would’ve saved a lot of stress for both of us. Now I make it a habit to always let the patient know beforehand.

Use the right anesthetic

Look at your patient’s health history and make sure you’re using the best anesthesia for them. Nothing is worse than giving your patient an injection and they end up not getting numb because the anesthesia is not the best option. Factor in how long their appointment is, what anesthesia they can handle with their health history, what kind of infection they have, etc. All these things will help make a more successful injection by having the patient stay numb for the entire appointment.

Make sure you have a sharp needle

If you end up hitting bone during a block and need to give a second in a different area, consider switching out your needle. Hitting bone barbs the end of the needle and causes it to dull. When the needle is dull, the patient can feel more pressure and any extra pressure can lead to anxiety. Using a brand-new, sharp needle makes a big difference for the patient’s comfort.

Review the injections beforehand

We at Hygiene Edge have lots of injection videos to help you review landmarks and positioning. We recommend reviewing how to take an IA or looking at several common errors while giving the IA if you have some downtime between patients.

Hygiene Edge was created from three dental hygiene educators who love both dentistry and education. With over 40 years of experience both in the education space and the dental field, Melia Lewis, Jessica Atkinson, and Shelley Brown love sharing their knowledge through helpful, short videos online, speaking, and working with amazing companies. You can find more information at Hygiene Edge, on YouTube (youtube.com/hygieneedge), and Instagram (@hygieneedge). Have a question or a tricky area? Let us know! We’d love to help.

About the Author

Melia Lewis, MEd, RDH

Melia Lewis, MEd, RDH, graduated in 2009 and has been working clinically or as an adjunct professor in Canada and the US. She is cofounder of Hygiene Edge, an online education platform full of tips and tricks to make dental professionals' lives easier. She has a passion for education and empowering dental hygienists to be their best. When she’s not talking dentistry, she’s planning her next trip. She has of two daughters and loves being in the mountains with her family. Contact her at [email protected] or on Instagram @hygieneedge and @meliardh.