Can a TENS Unit Help with Tooth Pain?

TENS analgesics can be used as a short-term pain relief mechanism when a toothache occurs for the first time, while waiting for a dentist appointment. If the cause of facial pain is stress-related or worsened by stress, then TENS therapy may be beneficial. Unfortunately, it's common to experience facial pain, which can radiate to the neck and shoulders. You may also have a headache, ear pain, or even mouth pain.

A TENS unit blocks pain signals that reach the brain. Not only does this give you the relief you need, but it also helps reduce stress that can cause tension in your jaw. In stimulation current therapy, electrical impulses are transmitted to the skin with the help of the TENS machine through electrodes. In addition, an attempt is made to briefly analyze the history of therapeutic electricity, the mechanism of action of TENS, the components of TENS equipment, the types, the techniques of administration, the advantages and contradictions of TENS.

In 1986, Roth and Thrash (20) used TENS to evaluate its effect on periodontal pain associated with orthodontic spacers placed mesial and distal to the first upper molars in 45 adult patients. Quanstrom and Milgrom (2) in 1989 combined TENS with nitrous oxide and oxygen in 309 patients and compared it with TENS alone in 62 patients to verify the effectiveness of pain control during restorative procedures without using local anesthesia. In adults, TENS has been successfully used as an excellent analgesic during various procedures, such as the placement of rubber gaskets, the preparation of cavities, pulp capping and other endodontic procedures, the preparation of dental prostheses, oral prophylaxis and extractions. William Stenberg (2) reported in 1994 on the use of TENS to control pain during cavity preparation in a 24-year-old patient susceptible to malignant hyperthermia and obtained favorable results.

In addition to its analgesic effect, TENS can also be used to produce non-analgesic physiological effects and has been found to be beneficial in the treatment of xerostomia. After much research, TENS or electronic dental anesthesia, as it is called in dentistry, has established itself as an anesthetic agent. A decrease in pain intensity greater than 50% was found in 38% of patients who received any form of TENS, while only 10% of patients who received TENS with placebo experienced a pain reduction of more than 50%. They discovered that “patients' fear is the most important factor preventing the effective use of TENS and factors such as the depth of preparation of the cavity or the group of teeth are not significant.

In pediatric patients, TENS has been used effectively to control pain during various procedures, such as the placement of pit and fissure sealants, the preparation of cavities, minor extractions and endodontic procedures. Baghdadi (1) in 1999 conducted a study on 28 children to determine the effectiveness of TENS compared to local anesthesia for restorative procedures. The use of TENS has positive effects on the behavior of pediatric patients, which in turn reduces anxiety levels, since it eliminates the “fear of the needle”. The theory of pain control proposed by Melzack and Wall (in 1965) is the most popular theory to explain the mechanism of action of TENS.

In conclusion, although TENS cannot replace local anesthesia, it can be used to relieve pain during several dental procedures.

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