Inhalable local anaesthesia could replace painful needles at the dentist

Your dentist may soon be moving from needle drugs to a snort-able variety. Researchers have found that local anesthesia delivered through an inhalable nasal spray quickly travels down one of the face’s primary nerves to the mouth, which could be more effective than injecting it into the gums with a needle.

The discovery was made when researchers took a closer look at the trigeminal nerve, which brings feelings to the nose, mouth, and face. Scientist have long known about the trigeminal nerve, but they’d never thought to see whether it might be a good conduit for intranasal drugs.

It turns out it’s extremely well-suited to moving drugs through the face. Common anaesthetics like lidocaine sprayed into the noses of lab rats quickly hopped a ride down the trigeminal nerve and pooled in the jaws and teeth at levels 20 times higher than in the brain or blood. The discovery opens the door to far less invasive - and less painful - forms of administering anesthetics for common oral surgeries.

But oral surgery is just the beginning. A new breed of drugs concocted for intranasal delivery could treat all kinds of face-oriented ailments, from common toothaches to migraines to trigeminal neuralgia, a condition that results in pretty severe facial pain. For most of us, it means that “tiny pinch” the dentist always describes right before jabbing a needle into your gums may be a thing of the past. So in a sense, the discovery also clears up a certain pain in the neck as well.


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