A Novel Microneedle Approach for Painless Delivery of Anaesthesia in Dentistry




Our technology offers a non-invasive, painless and efficient anaesthetic delivery platform for local anaesthesia in dentistry. We have developed a highly conductive microneedle (MN) array comprising of 100 micron-sized needles. The mere 150-200um length of the needles ensures painless penetration of the oral epithelium without contacting nerve endings. When combined with iontophoresis to provide a low-voltage current, quick and efficient delivery of anaesthetic agents to target the sensory nerves supplying the teeth can be achieved. All dental patients who require local anaesthesia in their prescribed dental treatments, especially young children and adults with high dental anxiety that results in avoidance behaviour towards dental visits will benefit from our technology. Current dental practice delivers local anaesthesia using the traditional syringe and needle injections method. However, the appearance of long needles and pain associated with it often lead to anxiety and phobia. This often deters patients from dental visits contributing to an increasing oral disease burden. Our innovation is expected to eliminate patients’ phobia of dental anaesthesia delivery and  promote patient compliance in seeking timely dental treatments and hence, reduce the nation’s oral disease burden. Dentists will also save time spent on behavioural management of phobic patients, hence improving clinic efficiency which also translates to overall cost-savings.  Moving forward, the team is keen to seek potential partnerships from relevant industries and investment funds.


The micron-size dimensions of our microneedle array appear patient-friendly and do not cause pain during injection. Additionally, the conductive property of our MNs significantly lowers the tissue resistance of the oral mucosa and brings about a synergistic effect when used in combination with iontophoresis treatment. As a result, drug delivery is accelerated across the oral mucosa surpassing the alveolar bone to reach the sensory nerves supplying teeth. In comparison, existing MN technologies have only been used as physical pre-treatment devices to create micron-size holes to facilitate transdermal delivery of drug molecules into skin and have only obtained FDA-approvals for cosmetic applications. With our technology, it can potentially eliminate the need to manage patient anxiety and needle phobia. This would save a bulk of dentists’ time and ensure smooth dental treatment.   Also, using our technology, we hypothesize that a smaller dose of anaesthetic drug will be required to achieve anaesthesia compared to the needle injection method. The efficacy of anaesthetic drug (i.e. lidocaine hydrochloride) delivery using the developed technology was shown to be equivalent to anaesthetic delivery using needle injection in rabbits. The pain threshold of the rabbits prior to and after treatment was tested using an electric pulp tester. The results revealed that all rabbits achieved dental anaesthesia (i.e. no response to pain stimulus applied to the tooth) when treated with either the conventional needle injection or conductive MN and iontophoresis. It was also measured that the time taken for onset of anaesthetic effect was almost immediate in both groups.


The primary application area of our technology is for anaesthesia delivery in dentistry. Yet, our technology can also be easily adopted for any drug delivery applications in skin. Such applications include transdermal delivery of topical drugs i.e. local anaesthesia for skin numbing.  In 2018, the global market value for dental anaesthetics comprising of anaesthetic solutions and dental needles was recorded at a US$818 million and is expected to grow at a CAGR of about 8.9%.