JULY 26, 2005 -- It's one of the least favorite places in the world for most people, the dentist's office. But for dental equipment manufacturers, it's a billion dollar plus sales opportunity, and one small company is trying to take the pain out of the process.
"Anesthetic has come a long way in 150 years, but most dentists today still use a syringe that was first patented in 1853," says Stewart Wildhorn, Milestone Scientific president.
The numbing shot is one of consumers' leading reasons for avoiding the dentist's chair, so imagine what it could mean to a dentist's bottom line if the shot wasn't somehow, a shot.
"It totally changes their perception. They tell a friend and family about this dentist that gives a pain free injection," says Terrance Dargan, a clinical consultant.
According to it's makers, this is the system that can do it. It's called Compu-Dent. It's patented and built by Livingston, New Jersey-based Milestone Scientific.
"Using the old steel syringes, it was kind of stressful. You'd be pulling the cheek up and doing all sorts of contortions to get the patient numb. I was having a lot of stress just from that," says Dr. Harry Long.
The Milestone system eliminates that process by using a microprocessor-driven wand to deliver the anesthetic. It's a measured process that gets rid of what creates the pain to begin with, the introduction of all that anesthetic fluid into the tissue in one big slug.
"The traditional syringe today is a palm/thumb grasp. You're actually pushing down with your thumb, and if you feel any resistance, human nature is that you'll press harder," says Wildhorn.
Pressing harder is what Milestone, which invented the category, is doing now in the market, not only in dentistry, but with ongoing clinical trials in the epidural injection space as well.
It's the target group of 85- or 90-thousand dentists, mostly in cosmetic and pediatric dentistry, that is the company's sweet spot right now. About 24,000 base units have been sold. With roughly 16 million single use hand pieces or wands, it is incrementally more costly than the old kind of shot.
"It's partly a marketing tool. You want people to know that you're looking for the best possible way to create a caring and warm environment so they're not traumatized, so they feel like referring their friends and family and they like coming back," says Dr. Long.
Milestone also markets the device based on safety. Inadvertent needle sticks are a concern in the medical community. The safety wand system can help folks avoid those.