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A visit to a dentist is often times perceived as a dreadful experience. Though dentists promise that everything will just be a little bug bite, you are fully aware that it will be more than that. Injecting Novocain will surely hurt and you have to deal with the numbing sensation that comes right after. The sight of shiny dental tools inserted to your mouth is such a torture as well.

“Odontophobia” or fear of dentists is very common these days, especially among children. However, a research conducted at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil came up with the use of electric currents in delivering anesthesia to make dental visits a more pleasant experience. This employs anesthetic hydrogels applied topically via electric current. Known as iontophoresis, this method increases delivery rate of the drug via biological membranes. It even bypasses the use of needle entirely. Electric current makes topical anesthetics more effective.

Everything has changed as iontophoresis was introduced to the field of dentistry. “This needle-free medication administration is cost-effective, has lower contamination and intoxication risks and has better patient compliance”, stated Professor Renata Foncesca Vianna Lopez during a press release. She authored the study of iontophoresis. “With this method, safer and more effective dental treatments will be accessible to the public”, she added.

The use of iontophoresis was tried initially to a pig. Anesthetic hydrogels with polymer was stuck to the pig’s inner mouth or gums.  Anesthetic medications which include Lidocaine Hydrochloride and Prilocaine Hydrochloride were then introduced using an electric current. This proved to deliver the drug 12 times faster than injectables.

“We have been developing novel drug delivery systems for the past few years to treat eye disorders and several skin problems” said Lopez. We believe that great challenge was posed on the delivery of medication via eyes and skin. By using nano technology, we studied how to make delivery of drug to these systems more efficient”, she added.

Over the years, a lot has been done to improve dental technology. This is why we now have modern dental care in filling, drilling, pulling and re-filling. But as medical technology evolves, these processes may come out obsolete in the years to come. For instance, researchers have found another modern method of repairing teeth called “supercharging”. This is done by remineralization of tooth enamel as alternative to drilling and filling. Another new process is called EAER (Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralization). This empowers teeth to do self-repair through normal rebuilding process which is re-entering phosphate minerals and calcium to the teeth.

The most recent study done by Lopez and colleagues is the use of a device that will allow delivery of anesthetics via gums and mouth lining. With remaining researches needed, such process will be placed in pre-clinical tests before this will be allowed for use by the public.