For many children, and adults for that matter, getting the initial shot of novicaine can be the worst part of getting a filling or dental procedure done. Dentists nowadays don’t actually use “novicaine”, it’s usually lidocaine or septocaine in our office, but the name novicaine has stuck around to denote any kind of dental local anesthesia that is injected to numb a tooth and the surrounding gum tissue. Even with the use of topical anesthetic aka “numbing jelly”, the initial pinch from the needle can cause a lot of dental anxiety. For children who have never had dental work done before, that pinch can cause them to start to cry and worry because nothing at the dentist had ever hurt before! They are used to facing injections at the pediatrician’s office for vaccinations and blood draws but prior to having a cavity, the dentist was always a safe haven of painless tooth counters and fancy spinning toothbrushes.
Pediatric dentists are trained on how to deliver local anesthesia to children in the easiest and most painless manner possible. We make sure to let the numbing jelly sit for ample time, we use distraction and anti-anxiety behavior management techniques, we shake the cheek to confuse the pain receptors, and we push the local in as slowly as possible to decrease pain from a large bolus of liquid entering the tissue too quickly. However, even with all those techniques and tricks, many kids will still freak out if they feel the tiniest of pricks in their gums. Getting a tooth numb is extremely important so that for the duration of the procedure the child feels no pain and thus cooperates and behaves well, but achieving that numbness with a shot can be extremely challenging.
Because of all this, Dr. Erica was extremely excited when she heard about the “STA Wand” from some of her colleagues. It’s an electronic device that pushes anesthetic through a small needle using a computer. The computer is able to push out the liquid at a rate of one drop per second – much slower than Dr. Erica could ever do with her fingers and that large clunky syringe! The computer senses back pressure from the gum tissue and allows the anesthetic to be administered under high pressure so that the tooth is numbed precisely without numbing the surrounding lips, cheeks, and skin. The STA system is optimized to deliver the local anesthesia by placing the needle in between the gums and the tooth so that the needle never actually has to pierce through the gums. Usually this type of injection is very painful, but because the computer delivers the local so slowly, it is completely painless!
We love that the STA handpiece does not look anything like a traditional syringe or “shot”. If it doesn’t look like a needle or feel like a needle, our patients are happy! Sometimes it’s just the idea of getting a shot that is enough to scare a patient so much that they can’t cooperate for an appointment. Because of this, Dr. Erica loves being able to offer an alternative that enables her to do her job, make her patients feel comfortable, and take advantage of some of dentistry’s latest and greatest technology! Besides being painless, we also love that our patients don’t go home with their whole face numb. This numb sensation can be very upsetting to some little ones after an appointment, and we see a lot of patients coming back with swelling and/or sores in the area of the numbing because they chewed or sucked on their lips so much after the appointment. The wand allows Dr. Erica to numb only the tooth she’s working on without risking post-operative trauma from her pediatric patients!
We’re so excited to have this great piece of technology in our office as our patient’s experience is one of our top priorities. Our goal is always to have children maintain a positive relationship with dental visits, and being able to offer painless dentistry is one of the building blocks of earning and keeping that trust over a lifetime. We hope your little one never needs a filling or extraction, but if they do – rest assured it won’t be the novicaine you’re used to!!
Dr. Erica shot a video last week explaining the benefits of the Wand, and even tried it out on herself! Check it out below: