FDA Approves New Mouth-Numbing Nasal Spray for Dental Work

Some 31% of all adults have tooth decay, yet many neglect to go to the dentist out of fear — especially if the treatment involves anesthetics that have to be injected through a needle.

However, a new nasal spray could change all of that.

Kovanaze, a nasal spray containing mouth-numbing agents, has just been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use with restorative dental work after successfully completing Phase 3 clinical trials.

In the latest round of testing, patients found the Kovanaze spray effective in numbing their teeth 88% of the time, a rate comparable to most needle-injected numbing agents. There were minimal reported changes in olfactory senses, and the most common side effects were some nasal congestion or a runny nose.

“There is really nothing else like this out there,” said Elliot V. Hersh, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s dental school and the study’s lead author. “This is obviously a great thing for needle-phobic individuals, and it can reduce inadvertent needle-stick injuries in the clinic as well.”

The idea for the spray came after dentist Mark Kollar had to undergo surgery for a deviated septum in his nose. He received an inhalable anesthetic for the procedure that also made his teeth go numb, leading him to develop the dental-specific numbing agent.

Currently, the FDA has approved Kovanaze for patients weighing over 40kg, or about 88 pounds. The developers and researchers hope that they will be able to determine the drug’s safety for children in the near future, too.

“It would certainly make for a more stress-free dental office visit for children as well as adults if we could replace some of these anesthetic injections with a simple spray,” Hersh said. “It may also keep some children out of the operating room, which would be a major cost savings to the child’s family and reduce potential morbidity associated with general anesthetic procedures.”

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