Many people have a phobia of needles and the pain associated with them, and scientists believe this is why some put off seeing the dentist until they absolutely have to.
To counter this aversion to injections, researchers at the National Dental Research Institute Singapore have developed a "painless" alternative for administering anaesthesia: A microneedle patch.
Research fellow Razina Seeni Syed said: "Most patients who walk in for dental procedures such as tooth extraction often have issues such as dental anxiety and phobia due to the long (anaesthetic) needles, which cause a lot of pain.
"The motivation for our project is to develop an alternative method that can deliver this anaesthesia painlessly. Our needles are very short in size, so when they are actually inserted into the gum, patients will not experience pain."
Dentists are expected to save time spent on behavioural management of patients with phobias, thereby improving clinic efficiency.
The microneedles create small holes in the gum and deliver the anaesthetic agents into the nerves in the jaw bone that supply sensation to the teeth.
The patch, which is 1cm in diameter and has an anaesthetic drug reservoir, is coupled with a low-voltage current to accelerate the drug transmission.
The entire process takes about five minutes, compared with about 10 minutes for a normal anaesthesia-administering procedure, said Dr Liu Yuchun, junior principal investigator in the team that developed the patch.
They hope to get the microneedle patch out in the market by end 2023, added Dr Liu.