By Dr. Maria Simbra

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A big, scary needle is not a welcome sight at the dentist’s office, and it can cause a lot of stress at later visits.

“The metal syringe does cause them a little bit of anxiety,” says Dr. Heather Baumhardt, a dentist at Children’s Hospital.

For that reason, some dentists are using the wand, especially for patients who have had a bad experience with dental anesthesia in the past.

“The wand is actually a small tube. It looks very much like a Bic pen. It has a very small syringe, and it is attached to a computer, basically, that is worked with a foot pedal,” says Dr. Baumhardt. “It delivers anesthesia at a very slow rate, and it doesn’t look anything like a traditional syringe.”

“And then you’ll hear it say cruise, and at that point the local anesthesia is dripping,” Dr. Katelyn Woods explains.

The anesthesia goes in slowly so the kids don’t feel any pain or burning. A whole segment of gum can be numbed, or just a single tooth. And there’s no repeated stopping and starting as might be needed with a traditional syringe.

“And they definitely don’t even realize some of the times that we’re giving them a quote unquote shot,” says Dr. Baumhardt.

The device does not affect insurance coverage or what a patient is charged, but it is more expensive to the dentist who must purchase the special tips that go on the wand.

The technique has been around for a couple decades now, but Children’s Hospital started using it just a few months ago.

The wand inventor, Dr. Mark Hochman, explains part of the slowness of dentists to pick up this new tool is that the standard syringe works fine, just less efficiently.

“They’re using an instrument that dates back over 160 years, and they think they’re doing the best that they can,” he said.

So far, about 25 kids have had the wand at Children’s.

“It’s nicer for them,” says Dr. Baumhardt. “They usually respond really well to it, and then they don’t have that fear for the next appointment.”

Dr. Maria Simbra