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Anesth Prog. 1994;41(2):35-9.

Efficacy of a topical anesthetic on pain and unpleasantness during scaling of gingival pockets.

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Department of Prosthetic Dentistry and Stomatognathic Physiology, Royal Dental College, Aarhus University, Denmark.


The efficacy of a topical anesthetic on pain and unpleasantness provoked by scaling of gingival pockets was investigated in 20 patients with mild chronic periodontitis. A eutectic mixture of local anesthetics (EMLA) and a placebo cream, both occluded by Orahesive Oral Bandages, were applied in a balanced, randomized, double-blind, split-mouth design, which enabled within-subject comparison of the anesthetic and the placebo in the upper and the lower jaw. Pretreatment interviews showed that approximately two-thirds of the patients considered gingival scaling to be associated with some degree of pain and unpleasantness. Pain intensity and unpleasantness were evaluated on 100-mm visual analog scales (VAS). Application of EMLA reduced both pain intensity and unpleasantness significantly compared to placebo cream. Median reductions in VAS pain intensity in the upper and lower jaw were 58.9% and 61.9%, and corresponding reductions in VAS unpleasantness were 31.9% and 25.6%, respectively. Generally, the patients accepted the anesthetic procedure well. The residual perception of pain and unpleasantness following topical anesthesia may be dependent on activation of nonanesthetized nociceptive fibers in the tooth pulp. However, the present study clearly demonstrates the efficacy of a topical anesthetic in a clinical situation, which may be recommended as a simple pharmacologic strategy to reduce pain and unpleasantness during scaling procedures.

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