New Zealand researchers conduct successful trial of needle-free dental anaesthesia

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New Zealand researchers conduct successful trial of needle-free dental anaesthesia

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Though dental anaesthesia is traditionally delivered with a needle, a new device developed and trialled by researchers in New Zealand provides needle-free anaesthesia delivery. (Image: hedgehog94/Shutterstock)

DUNEDIN, New Zealand: Dental anxiety continues to be a significant impediment to patients receiving dental care, and minimally invasive approaches have grown in popularity. A new collaboration between researchers from the University of Otago, University of Auckland and the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand has resulted in the trial of a device that delivers dental anaesthesia without the use of a needle, and the results have been promising.

The proof-of-principle study included eight participants who each required bilateral maxillary tooth extractions as part of their treatment plan. Their respective levels of anxiety and discomfort were recorded before receiving anaesthesia via the needle-free device and through the traditional approach. According to study co-author Prof. Andrew Taberner of the Auckland Bioengineering Institute at the University of Auckland, the device, which is driven by a silent motor, is unique in that it has been designed specifically for use in dentistry and not adapted from any other medical purpose.

“All other dental jet injectors use springs or compressed gas to power the injection; these have the drawback of noise, and impact, when the drug is delivered,” Prof. Taberner commented in a press release. “Moreover, this study was the first time I have seen anyone jet-inject through a slender wand that is a bit like a three-in-one tool, and can easily be introduced into the back of the mouth.”

After the extractions had been conducted, all patients expressed their preference for the needle-free anaesthesia delivery, and six of the eight participants stated that their extractions with this device had been free of pain. The remaining two participants required additional anaesthesia delivered through traditional methods. Over the following seven days, healing and gingival tissue response at the extraction sites was evaluated and deemed to be uneventful regardless of the technique used.

Prof. Paul Brunton, lead author of the study and pro-vice-chancellor of the Division of Health Sciences at University of Otago, highlighted that dental anxiety remains a significant barrier for accessing dental care and that a common cause of fear is “the sight of a needle during local anaesthetic delivery”.

“Even though this was just a proof of concept trial, this device certainly could reduce or eliminate anxiety due to needle phobia,” he added.

Given the small size and limited scope of the study, clinical trials will be needed to validate the needle-free device’s efficacy and confirm whether or not it could be used during other dental procedures.

The study, titled “Jet injection needle-free dental anaesthesia: Initial findings”, was published in the July 2022 issue of the Journal of Dentistry.

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