Dental Needles: What You Should Know

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Regular dental visits are vital in a healthy oral care routine, but for some people, anxiety about dental injections discourages them from booking an appointment. Fear of dental needles could be due to a bad experience. Sometimes a dental phobia has no obvious cause, though that doesn't make the fear any less real. Fortunately, when a dentist is aware of a patient's anxiety about dental injections, he or she can take extra measures to calm the patient and keep any potential discomfort to a minimum.

When Are Dental Injections Needed?

Some dental procedures are painful if the dentist doesn't numb the surrounding area. Teeth and gums contain nerves that send pain signals to the brain when they're harmed. Even if the teeth or gums aren't painful to begin with, they hurt when the dentist begins work, unless he or she administers an anesthetic. Fillings, root canals and extractions are some common procedures that require one or more dental injections.

Do Dental Injections Hurt?

Fear of pain or discomfort due to a dental injection is at the heart of many patients' concerns about dental visits. Though sometimes an injection may hurt, it's rarely the prick from the dental needle itself that patients feel. Most dentists dry the injection site and apply a numbing gel before inserting the needle into the gum. As the dentist injects the local anesthetic, some patients feel a stinging sensation.

Dental Injection Effects

Dental shots numb an entire region of the mouth, like the left lower jaw, or a smaller section depending on the work required. After the injection, the area becomes numb for up to several hours, and the patient may not be able to smile or feel anything on the affected side of the mouth. Dentists often advise patients to drink through a straw until normal sensitivity returns. Patients can use a soft-bristled toothbrush like Colgate 360° Enamel Health Soft Toothbrush for Sensitive Teeth, which has 48 percent softer bristles, if their mouths are sore when the anesthetic wears off.

How You Can Prepare

If you're anxious about dental needles, the best thing you can do to prepare for a dental injection is to communicate your feelings to the dentist. He or she can explain the options so you can feel in control of your treatment. Some patients prefer not to know what will happen during their appointment, but if it helps, you can ask your dentist exactly what to expect at each stage. You can also arrange to give your dentist a hand signal when you need him or her to stop for a moment because you feel uncomfortable.

How Your Dentist Can Help

When your dentist knows you're worried about dental needles, he or she can reduce the chances that an injection will hurt. According to Today's Dentist, when the local anesthetic is chilled, it can make a dental injection a little painful. If the dentist or the dental assistant warms the vial containing the anesthetic to body temperature, the patient shouldn't feel any pain when he or she receives the injection.

Your dentist can also:

  • Wait a minute or two to allow the numbing gel to take effect before giving the shot.
  • Use a beveled, narrow-diameter needle, such as a 25, 27 or 30 gauge.
  • Keep the needle and its holder out of your line of sight.
  • Push the needle in slowly.
  • Inject a small amount of anesthetic as he or she pushes the needle in to numb the area through which it travels.

A good understanding of what to expect and having some control over what happens may go a long way to improving your experience at the dentist's office. A fear of dental needles shouldn't prevent you from seeing your dentist. When you voice your concerns, your dentist can help reduce your stress levels and your discomfort.