TENS, or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, is a form of therapy used in dentistry to reduce pain and provide anesthetic effects. It has been studied for its role in reducing pain from temporomandibular disorders and postherpetic neuralgia, increasing salivary secretion in xerostomia patients, and providing local anesthesia in pediatric dentistry. The mechanism of action of TENS is based on the theory of pain control proposed by Melzack and Wall in 1965. It is important to note that TENS should not be used on patients with pacemakers. TENS can be delivered continuously or in “bursts” or “trains”, which is sometimes referred to as pulsed TENS.
In physiological dentistry, a special TENS unit with a very specific wavelength is applied to the muscles of the head and neck to help them reach a point of true physiological rest. It has also been used to provide relief from trigeminal neuralgia and to reduce pain during various dental procedures such as the placement of pit and fissure sealants, cavity preparation, minor extractions, and endodontic procedures. The analgesic effect of TENS has been found to be beneficial in reducing pain intensity by more than 50% in 38% of patients who received it. 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.
It is important to note that the use of TENS requires the cooperation of the patient, so it should not be attempted on patients with communication problems or mental disabilities. Although TENS cannot replace local anesthesia, it can be used to relieve pain during several dental procedures. In conclusion, TENS is a useful adjunct in dentistry for reducing pain and providing anesthetic effects.