What Are Syringes Used For In Dentistry? Do They Hurt?

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The vast majority of us can easily recognise a syringe complete with a long plastic tubular body and ‘terrifying’ needle. For many people, this simple piece of apparatus is enough to strike the fear of God into any recipient. But while there are many types of syringes including injection pens, safety syringes, insulin pumps, speciality needles and even needleless injectors, what are syringes used for in dentistry? And more importantly, are they painful?  Let’s dive in and take a closer look…

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 5% of all syringes are used for blood transfusion, another 5% is used for other purposes and the remaining 90% are used to administer drugs. In the main, and on most occasions in dentistry – medical supplies syringes are used to administer drugs – In this case, when we say drugs, we mean anaesthetic.

Sterile syringes along with associated needles are used to deliver common anaesthetics such as lidocaine to a specific area in the mouth. This is to ensure that the patient remains as comfortable as possible during both invasive and minimally invasive procedures. As such, sterile syringes can be used on patients requiring anything from a dental check-up and clean, through to dental implant surgery. Even though modern anaesthetics are designed to offer comfort during certain procedures, many people still, ask the question…


Do dental injections hurt? 

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Anyone who has had a sterile syringe injection during a dental visit will know that the level of discomfort they experience can vary quite a bit. Despite the fact that many patients feel that the needle itself is the painful culprit, this usually isn’t true.

There are hundreds of studies spanning several decades which have all surmised that patients generally cannot tell the difference between 25, 27 and 30 gauge needles, even without any kind of topical administration. In truth, it’s all about two things…

  • Technique and
  • Location 


Firstly technique

Several studies have shown that the key to delivering comfortable injections using medical supplies syringes is via slow, low-pressure administration. This is because it allows the maximum time for the anaesthetic to diffuse with the surrounding tissue. The more rapidly it’s dispersed out of the syringe, the more disruption to the tissues it will cause 


What about location?

People are less likely to feel discomfort when the needle is placed into looser oral tissue rather than dense, firmly attached tissues. This is because when an anaesthetic-loaded syringe is injected into an area with loose tissue, it can quickly find a space to occupy. On the contrary, when an injection is placed into areas of dense or tightly packed tissue, the anaesthetic has to force its way in, and this is what causes patients discomfort. 


Syringe shapes and sizes

We’ve already talked about how long and slow techniques are beneficial for patients. So how does a dentist know which syringe-type to use?

Smaller syringes – Although smaller volume syringes –those between 1cc and 10cc’s are the type generally used for subcutaneous and intramuscular injections, the larger the barrel, the lower the flow of pressure. So just because a dental syringe looks bigger, patients should not automatically assume that it’s going to be more uncomfortable than a smaller-barrelled syringe.  

Medium-sized syringes – those that can hold roughly 10cc’s -12cc’s – are more commonly used for medical lines, catheters and medical tubing.

Finally, larger syringes – those that can hold up to 70cc’s are more commonly used for irrigation – similar to those used in irrigating tooth canals.    


While we’ve briefly discussed syringe barrel size, what about the syringe tip? 

There are in essence 5 different kinds of syringe tip used in dentistry

The first and arguably most popular is the Luer Lock. This consists of a tip that enables speedy attachment and detachment of a needle. It allows the needle hub to lock into the barrel with a simple twist motion and offers better security and safety.

Slip tip syringe – Another common type is known as the slip-tip. Instead of a locking function, the needle is held in place using friction.

Eccentric tip syringes – These are primarily used when medication needs to be administered parallel to the skin of a patient – E.g. injecting into a surface vein when you don’t want a needle to penetrate through vascular walls.

Catheter tip syringes – As the name suggests catheter-tipped syringes are made to accommodate catheters and come with a tapered end designed so that the catheter can slip on and off easily. Catheter-tipped syringes are also ideal for wound irrigation or for flushing out medical tubing medical supplies when necessary. 

Disposable syringes with a permanently attached needleSingle patient use disposable safety syringes give patients better peace of mind when it comes to infection control and is popular for these reasons.

And finally…


What about syringe needles?

The criteria for selecting the right needle has 3 primary considerations, these are:

  • Gauge
  • Length and
  • Use

The gauge measures the width and diameter of the needle. Finer gauge needles are usually more comfortable for a patient and can better accommodate low-viscosity medications. The most common of which are 26 and 27.

The location of the injection will usually dictate the length of the needle required. Generally, the further the depth of the injection, the longer the needle.

And syringe use – E.g. whether the injection is primarily going to be intradermal, intramuscular or subcutaneous use. It’s worth noting, however, that some needle lengths can span various injection uses. So the choice may also be down to other factors.

So we’ve answered the question what are syringes used for in dentistry? But also how to find the right syringe fit for use and whether they hurt. Here at Critical Dental, we stock a range of quality dental syringes from reputable brands at great prices. Download our catalogue and see for yourself.

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