Scientists are working to identify a link between local anesthetics and tooth failure, especially of third molars. The drugs — which are used in sedation dentistry and NOT at THE SCIENCE OF SMILES — can stop new pulp cells from growing, which can lead to developmental failure and loss.
A team of researchers from China and the U.K. found that local anesthetics lingered in the pulp cells of developing permanent teeth for hours after administration and reduced the levels of a protein critical to cell division and growth.
While observations of this phenomenon have been made by dentists for years, researchers have not been able to verify the connection — until now. The link between the two, however, is important because of the frequent use of local anesthetics, including on adolescents whose teeth are still growing.
“We felt it was necessary to further investigate the effects of local anesthetics, particularly the ones currently used in dental clinics, because there was very little literature about it, and, clinically, we only follow the instructions from the manufacturers without knowing much more,” explained Dr. Bing Hu, an associate professor in the oral and dental health research department at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry in the U.K.
While more research is pending, scientists say they hope their findings will lead to adjustments in guidelines of local anesthetic dosages, especially in young people.
“I am convinced such … research is essential for improving public health world-wide,” says Dr. Hu.