PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Few people would say they look forward to a trip to the dentist. In fact, millions of Americans admit to being afraid of going to the dentist.
A study by the University of Washington Dental School suggests as many as 20 million Americans refuse to go because of that fear.
Now though, a new device called the DentalVibe is putting those fears to rest.
Dr. Jane Soxman, DDS, is a pediatric dentist. She knows first-hand about fear among dental patients.
“The first question that a parent asks me before anything is ‘Will he or she need a shot?’” said Dr. Soxman.
High school sophomore Kaelin Clogan admits to having second thoughts before plopping down in the dentist’s chair.
“I always have a feeling that I’m going to have a cavity and that I’m always going to have to get that Novocain so I can get it drilled,” said Clogan. “I really get nervous. I don’t really like shots.”
For decades, dentists have tried to avoid or lessen the pain for the patient.
“If you have a child that loses it during the injection, it’s really sets the stage for the entire appointment,” said Dr. Soxman. “School age children don’t have good coping skills and adolescents are very emotional.”
Dr. Soxman tried the DentalVibe, an instrument that looks and sounds a lot like an electric toothbrush with a special replaceable rubber tip.
“We place the DentalVibe on the gum tissue, and the vibration goes for about 10 to 15 seconds,” says Soxman. “They become accustomed to that sensation, and then we will inject into the tissue slowly, about 30 to 60 seconds.”
The DentalVibe works on the Gate Theory, that vibrations created by the instrument travel faster than pain.
“The pulsation and the vibration actually overrides that sensation to the brain,” Soxman explains. “The vibration goes faster. The nerve impulses carry faster so that this one (pain from needle) is actually blocked.”
Dr. Soxman put the DentalVibe to use on three young patients for KDKA.
Kaelin is a high school sophomore at Pine-Richland High School. Rylee is a 9-year-old third grader from Allison Park. There also was a 6-year-old patient.
How did the DentalVibe do? It was a perfect three-for-three. None of the patients even knew they got the injection.
Considering it costs a few hundred dollars, Soxman says it’s a no-brainer for her practice.
“I don’t want to hurt anybody. So this has given me the opportunity for those patients to give them the local anesthesia,” she says. “They’ll accept it.”
It worked so well for Rylee Obringer. She was surprised the dentist was done.
When asked about getting an injection, her response was simply, “I don’t know if I got a shot.”
After learning about the new instrument, Clogan says it makes sense to her.
“Once I heard about what it did, it kind of eased my nerves a little bit,” she said. “Then, once they did it, I didn’t feel a thing so it was pretty simple.”
Dr. Soxman summarized it this way, “Procedures go faster. It’s smoother. It’s just better for everybody.”
There are two versions of the DentalVibe. One is for children. The adult version is identical except that the disposable rubber tip is slightly larger.