Dentists have always had a fascination with technology. The inside joke among dentists is that every office has a drawer (the drawer of unused toys) filled with contraptions that were purchased because they were thought to be next great innovative product in dentistry.
We are not ashamed in admitting that we have that very drawer, which we occasionally look at, and marvel at the amount of money spent on items now collecting dust. Not that the products themselves aren’t useful or could prove to be beneficial to our patients, but ultimately, we are creatures of habit, and we find various reasons not to use them.
That being said, we’d like to think that we are open to new technologies that will improve the care and comfort of our patients. This ‘newer’ product being advertised in our dental journals and seen in this recent Wall Street Journal article (http://on.wsj.com/Q8yvTA), makes use of vibrations to lessen the pain of injections.
The Dental Vibe (http://www.dentalvibe.com/) is designed to ‘distract’ and ‘block’ the neurological pain gateway to our brain. Used in conjunction with a regular syringe and needle, the Dental vibe, which resembles a hinged prong, is placed near the area that one needs to inject and vibrates at speeds which prevent the pain of injections from being felt by the patient.
The basic underlying theory is that pain impulses can be blocked at at a neurological ‘pain gate’ located within the spinal cord, IF vibration stimuli reach this ‘gate’ first. Vibrations from the Dental Vibe reach this ‘pain gate’ first because vibrations travel along a faster nerve path (myelinated A beta nerve fibers) to the brain when compared with pain sensation which travels thin unmyelinated, C nerve fibers. Great in theory, though it remains to be seen if it works consistently.
Dental students are taught that to help lessen the pain of injection, one should vigorously shake the lip or cheek near the area where the needle point is placed. Granted, our shaking may not vibrate the lip to the same extent as the Dental Vibe, and hence may not close off the ‘pain gateway’, but it seems to work.
My gut instinct is that the Dental Vibe seems to make a lot of sense. However, that being said, evidence based dentistry asks that one withholds judgement until properly designed peer reviewed research studies prove that it in fact is effective. We shall err on the side of caution (not wishing to add yet another device to our drawer of unused toys) and wait until more research is forthcoming prior to trying out the Dental Vibe. But the thought of giving pain free injections is quite compelling.