syringeBy Theresa Pablos, assistant editor

January 28, 2016 ­­

What if you never had to get dental anesthesia through a needle again? A recent study evaluated the possibility of using an electric current instead of a needle for local anesthesia during routine dental procedures. Brazilian researchers created a noninvasive anesthesia delivery system using iontophoresis for deep buccal anesthesia. Iontophoresis, which has been studied for more than 100 years in medical settings, uses a low­density electric current to introduce ionic drugs into the body through skin and tissues. “The developed formulation presented adequate mechanical and mucoadhesive properties for buccal properties,” the authors wrote (Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces, November 10, 2015). “Therefore, this can be considered a valuable strategy for the administration of needle­free anesthesia during dental procedures, likely offering a fast onset and prolonged duration of anesthesia.”

While injectable anesthetics have made routine dental care accessible for many patients, some patients are still avoiding the dentist because they fear the needle. Currently, topical anesthetics are recommended for superficial procedures only, but the researchers envision a future where local anesthetics can be applied noninvasively. “Among other advantages, noninvasive administration could save costs, improve patient compliance, facilitate application, and decrease risk of contamination,” wrote lead author Camila Cubayachi and colleagues. Cubayachi is a doctoral student at the University of São Paulo School of Pharmaceutical Sciences.