“Numbing Jelly” or Dental Topical Anesthesia.
I often ask my patients what they hate the most about a trip to the dentist, and a solid majority always says one thing: The Shot. There are other things that patients do not like, and I even compiled an abridged list of things patients have told me they dread:
- The sound of the dental drill.
- The feeling of “too many things” in their mouth.
- Being tilted back too far.
- The thought of a “hole” being drilled into a body part.
- The “suction thingy” (a.k.a. saliva ejector or spit sucker).
- The spray of the water.
- The taste of metal instruments.
- Two individuals (dentist and assistant) staring into their mouth
- And literally hundreds of other things…
All of these things are reasons why patients avoid the dentist. However, based on my experience as a dentist, these items all pale in comparison to the administration of local anesthetic. Local anesthetic is necessary for all types of dental procedures, including fillings, crowns, root canals, implants, etc. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Orange, CT where I practice or thousands of miles away, patients hate the shot!
Not surprisingly, dentists and dental supply manufacturers have been identifying and developing techniques over the years to eliminate the pain and fear associated with the local anesthesia injection. Perhaps the biggest and most significant development was the introduction of narrow diameter disposable needles. Prior to the 1950s, the needles used were much larger in order for them to be able to stand up to multiple sterilization cycles. I’ve had many older patients who experienced dental procedures back in the 1940s who described these as “horse needles.” Now we use much narrower disposable needles. I will cover the history of dental needles in a future blog post. But regardless, a needle is still a needle!