Will your dental injection hurt?

One question that seems to be on a lot of people's minds is: Will the shot my dentist is going to give me hurt?

Why is it that some dental injections are painful and others aren't?

The amount of discomfort caused by any one dental injection can vary significantly.

And even though so many patients are focused on the fact that a needle is involved, most of the pain from a dental injection is not related to the needle itself. Instead, it has to do with the location and type of tissue in which the shot is given.

Here's what's really causing the pain.

The bulk of the discomfort that a patient experiences during an injection has to do with the act of placing a quantity of liquid (the anesthetic) into soft tissues.

This fact explains why shots in different locations have varying potential to hurt.

Loose tissue.

In some locations, the tissue receiving the injection is comparatively "loose," thus making it easy for the injected anesthetic solution to find a space to occupy.

Dense tissue.

In other areas, the construction of the tissue will be dense and tight. And as the anesthetic solution is injected, it must forcibly make its own space. This is what pinches so much.

Here's why it's not really the needle that's to blame.

Think about it.

  • Sure, the needle initially pricks as it first enters through the skin. But this just takes a split second.
  • Once the needle is in position, the dentist doesn't really move it around a great deal, so what's to cause a further pricking sensation?
  • The solution coming out of the sharp tip of the needle is the very solution (the anesthetic) that makes it so nerve fibers that carry pain sensations stop functioning.

So, how is it that the needle could cause so much pain during an injection? Well, of course, it's not.

It's the act of dispensing the anesthetic liquid that's potentially painful.

So, if the needle isn't the main culprit, what is?

Well, as we were stating previously, it has to do with the fact that a quantity of liquid (the anesthetic) must be placed into the soft tissues that surround the tooth.

Shots that are less likely to hurt.

In locations where the tissue is relatively loose and flabby, the anesthetic solution will flow into the tissue easily and you probably won't feel the injection process much at all.

Shots given on the cheek side of a person's upper molars, and probably even their bicuspids, involve this type of tissue and are often remarkably painless.

Shots that are more likely to hurt.

In situations where the soft tissue receiving the injection is relatively tight and dense, the anesthetic liquid must force its way in. This is the type of instance where you are likely to feel discomfort.

As an example, injections given directly into the type of tight gum tissue that surrounds a person's teeth and covers over their palate are likely to pinch.

A syringe used to give dental injections.

So, will your shots hurt?

How likely is it that you will feel much discomfort with your dental injections? Like we've been saying, it's location, location, location.

Ask your dentist what to expect with any specific injection. You may be pleasantly surprised to learn what they have to say.

Give your dentist some cooperation with the injection process.

Without question, the more cooperative you are when your dentist is performing your injection, the more pleasant the experience will be.

The more you rush your dentist, the more likely it is to hurt.

One factor associated with the ease with which the anesthetic solution can enter into soft tissue has to do with the rate at which it is injected. The slower the rate, the less potential there is for discomfort.

If you're an uncooperative patient, your dentist's natural instinct (they're human too) will be to speed up the injection process so it's finished more quickly. That's the exact opposite of what you want.

Help your dentist be on-target, the first time.

When a dentist performs a dental injection, they must place the anesthetic in the proper location. This takes a little concentration.

If the dentist is focused on your behavior, as opposed to just performing the injection, it will increase the likelihood that the injection will be off-target and additional "shots" will be required.

If you want it to hurt, it will.

Some people place themselves in a position of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. They expect the injection to hurt and therefore don't give the process a chance, thus making a guaranteed unpleasant experience.

If you have apprehensions about injections you need to clue your dentist in, in advance, so they can address your concerns and take steps that can help to make the process as pleasant for you as possible.

 All FYI's ► 

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