TENS units are machines which use Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation as a method of pain control. These devices are designed to be used in a number of ways and on various types of pain. Most frequently they are seen in cases of fibromyalgia and back pain, but you might be surprised to learn that these tools are also utilized by some dentists. The U.S. National Library of Medicine writes: “TENS is extremely useful in some dental procedures, such as TMJ syndrome and tooth extraction; however, its use is not practical in all situations. The dentist must remember that TENS is an adjunctive form of treatment. It is not a panacea for all types of pain, nor should it be used as a last resort. When applied correctly and with care, TENS is useful in the management of pain in the head and face.”
TENS treatments offer a more natural alternative to the many medications and anesthetics available for dental work in North America. You will find that if you request this type of treatment, many dentists are quite receptive, even if it is something they have yet to try for themselves.
Why Choose TENS
Unlike the chemicals that are used in many medications, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, stimulates areas where pain is being felt, so as to block the signal from being sent to the brain and thus being felt by the body. The treatment is also believed to help users release a natural chemical called endorphins into the body, which can then be used to nullify the pain without the need for external additives. Research Gate advises: “Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) also known as Electronic Dental Anesthesia (EDA) is non-invasive, safe and well accepted by the patients. It has been shown that EDA is a viable mode of pain control during some dental procedures in pediatric dentistry.”
Not everybody can use TENS as a treatment option and it is important to speak to your doctor about whether or not you are a candidate before trying, even if you are planning to use a unit which does not require a prescription. You will find that those individuals who have heart problems, or who have suffered from poor heart health in the past are not encouraged to use Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation as a form of pain management. Pacemakers can be affected by the current being emitted, which can be very dangerous. Pregnant women are also urged not to try TENS, unless it is during the labour process and is being directly supervised by a physician. There is very little research to support whether or not TENS therapy is safe for a fetus yet, but it has been shown to relieve the pain brought on by labour in the back, until the time of delivery.
Dentists may use different models of the TENS machine than the one that you will see for other types of pain. These work as a good alternative to the local anesthetic which often causes panic, especially children, and those with phobias of needles. The process has been shown to relieve and prevent pain in dentistry, without the need for all of the poking with syringes. EMedicineHealth.com reports the following on the usage of TENS: “When the current is delivered, some people experience less pain. This may be because the electricity from the electrodes stimulates the nerves in an affected area and sends signals to the brain that block or “scramble” normal pain signals. Another theory is that the electrical stimulation of the nerves may help the body to produce natural painkillers called endorphins, which may block the perception of pain.”
While more and more dentists are embracing this method of pain relief, not all dentists use the TENS machine for all types of procedures. In some cases, such as a root canal, or an extraction, anesthetic will still need to be used unless the patient is aware of the pain they may feel outside of the TENS relief. The unit helps mainly with dull pains in the jaw and cheeks as work is being completed.
The use of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation units in the field of dentistry is a huge step forward for this industry. Especially because it has previously been thought to be a more strict medical practice than other types which have been open to alternative medicine in many forms for earlier. Some clinics focus on drug alternative treatments in specific, and offer patients the option of TENS or other relief methods as opposed to the more traditional and medicinal forms pain management.
If you are interested in trying TENS treatments during your next dental appointment, speak to your dentist about the possibility of this type of procedure. He or she may not be as open to TENS as other dentists, and if this is the case, your dental professional may be able to refer you to somebody who does focus on alternative anesthetics. You may have to pay for the use of the machine, supply your own, or it may even be cheaper than medicinal pain management in the dentist office.
You will also want to speak to your medical and dental insurance provider regarding the type of coverage that you are allotted when using TENS and similar devices during treatments to manage pain. Some companies will cover Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, while others count it outside of the covered treatment types.