Advances in Managing Pain in the Dentist Chair

by Joshua Allen, DMD, Owner & Dentist, Keep Smiling Family Dentistry

Visiting the dentist is an uncomfortable experience for many. Even the thought can give people extreme anxiety.

Whether it’s psychological or physical reasons, many people hate “going to the dentist,” and probably for good reason! Unfortunately, this important and necessary service called dental care is often neglected because of its association with pain and trauma.

But thanks to advances in modern medicine, dentistry has come a long way and doesn’t hurt as much as it used to. We have several methods to minimize the pain and discomfort.

1. Needle-free numbing for cleaning and other periodontal procedures. Are your gums inflamed or super sensitive to cold? There’s now special short-term anesthetics developed for the gums that are quick, easy, painless and effective.

2. Laughing gas. Many dental offices use nitrous oxide to help raise your overall threshold for pain. How it works is a small mask is first placed over your nose. The gas is then gently released and adjusted to your body’s unique chemistry so you can safely breathe in the gas before and during your dental procedure.

It works almost immediately and helps ease anxiety and the stress of the procedure, making you more comfortable and relaxed.

3. Topical numbing gels. We can place a jelly-like substance containing key ingredients like benzocaine or lidocaine prior to the injection of local anesthetic to make the actual injection less painful.

4. Buffered local anesthetic. Besides the injection itself, local anesthesia hurts typically because it is expanding the tissue and is highly acidic. But scientists have discovered that taking a slow approach and buffering the anesthetic with sodium bicarbonate immediately prior to injection greatly reduces the “burning” sensation commonly experienced with nonbuffered anesthetic.

It also helps the patient get numb the first time with greater success, meaning less waiting to get numb and less time in the dental chair.

Lastly, studies have shown that buffered anesthetic significantly reduces post-injection soreness.

As a dentist, I understand my office is not the favorite place to be. But I work hard to provide my patients with a gentle and as close to pain-free as possible experience. The next time you find yourself at the dentist office, ask them how they can help mitigate your pain so you can have less fear about going to the dentist!