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A different kind of oral sensation.

A different kind of oral sensation

In about five years, researchers predict, most people will be able to sit in a dentist's chair and control their own anesthesia-- not the conventional type but rather the electronic variety where electrodes attach to certain parts of the mouth and send electrical impulses to the brain faster than pain stimuli. The result is said to be a pleasant, pulsing sensation, similar to the twitching of an eyelid.

While this electronic dental anesthesia (EDA) can be used in about 90 percent of dental procedures, it can't be used during surgery because the pulsing increases blood flow. It also does not provide any postoperative pain relief because when patients let go of a hand device, which allows them to find the level of comfort needed, the pain relief stops.

Studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles have shown a 85 to 90 percent success rate with EDA, but some patients may not like the twitching sensation or may not want to be bothered with controlling their own anesthesia. "Some would prefer an injection to having to control a machine,' says Stanley F. Malamed, a professor of anesthesia and medicine at the USC School of Dentistry.

Although the technology used in EDA has been around in medicine since the late 1960s, especially for treating both acute and chronic pain, the machines for dental offices have been available for only one year. The problem was developing small enough electrodes for the mouth. Currently, about 1,000 of the nation's 140,000 dentists use EDA, and in about five years, people will be able to find dentists who use EDA in most cities, Malamed told SCIENCE NEWS.
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Title Annotation:electronic dental anesthesia
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 24, 1987
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