In dental school when we learned how to give local anesthesia we had to practice on ourselves. The approach makes a lot of sense. You try to be as gentle as possible to your classmate. You try to place the needle very precisely. You control the flow of the anesthetic so the result is as painless as possible. Because you know – that same person is going to practice on you.
Why do we feel pain from injection?
Having experienced dental anesthesia ourselves, we take the skill and attention to our patients trying to make them as comfortable as possible. But the resulting sensation of pain versus little pain depends on many factors. One is the speed of the injection. If the anesthetic is fired rapidly, the pain sensation would be stronger. That is why I always try to administer the drug as slowly as possible. Another factor is the area that needs to be numbed. For example, the mouth roof (palatal area) has less elastic tissue and the injection there typically feels more painful. The patient’s attitude and expectation is a crucial factor as well. If you are scared and tensed, you will direct all your attention toward the needle and, consequently, will experience more discomfort.
What can we offer? The Wand!
While I still use regular syringes and needles with care and attention, I am a strong believer in technology. At our office, we use computer-assisted anesthesia system when the case calls for it. The system is marketed as the Wand® implying that it works like magic. What is good about it?
It is not scary
The Wand looks like a small box with colorful buttons. While it still has a tiny needle attached to a pen-like handpiece, it doesn’t look like a regular syringe with a needle! So for anyone with dental anxiety, the Wand can definitely reduce that fear of needles.
It automatically controls the flow of anesthetic fluid
The Wand relies on dynamic pressure-sending technology. It measures precisely the pressure of the fluid at the tip on the needle and adjusts its flow so it is always consistent and slow and, consequently, less discomforting.
It is more accurate and you can walk from your appointment with no numb lips and tongue
The Wand gives the doctor continuous real-time audio and visual feedback. As such, it is possible to ensure that the injection affects the precise location we want to numb while the adjusted area, including lips and tongue, is not affected.
It can add as much anesthetic as needed without removing and reinserting the needle
Sometimes we need more anesthetic to fully numb the area. Traditionally, I would make one injection and remove the needle. The I would attach another carpule with the drug and reinsert the needle to add more anesthetic. With the Wand, I can add as much medicine as needed with a single injection.
You probably are not going to feel the difference between traditional and computer-assisted anesthesia every single case. But it is comforting to know there is this great technology the next time you need it.