The Surprising Impact of Flavored Topical Anesthetic

When I bought my dental practice in Glendale, Arizona, eight years ago, they were offering patients a choice of flavors for topical anesthetic. I truthfully thought it was silly and that we would stop doing it. With experience, however, I came to realize that giving a choice was valuable for both patients and team members. Today we are still offering a choice of flavors.

When a patient is seated, the dental assistant will say, “As you know, as part of the process for getting you numb, we will be using a topical anesthetic. We have five flavors and you get to tell me which flavor you would like to use today.”

It is really interesting to listen to the dialog, but also to realize what is happening for the patient. The choice gives the patient an opportunity to settle into a conversation and something to focus on other than that they will be getting an injection and the logistics of that.

The process almost creates a fun, quirky conversation, as the patient thinks about the choices. Sometimes patients say, “You choose, and I’ll guess which one it is. Let’s see if it really tastes like that.” When patients pose themselves this challenge, the whole time I am giving the injection, they are trying to figure out which flavor of topical we have used.

Sometimes patients ask, “Which flavor is your favorite?” or “What do other patients like most?” In this case, we talk about it.

We have the mint flavors everyone else has but we also rotate in cherry, strawberry, bubble gum and pina colada. In summer, we offer watermelon. At any one time, we typically have five flavors and they vary throughout the year. A patient who has come in a few times, may even start the conversation with, “Do you have any new flavors for me to try today?”

One of my favorite conversations is whether the pina colada actually has rum in it and how funny it would be if we could just use the rum. An ice-breaker conversation such as this is a great way for us to ease the tension at the front end of an appointment that will require anesthetic. It truly adds an element of fun that has become for us a practice distinguisher.

Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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5 thoughts on “The Surprising Impact of Flavored Topical Anesthetic

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    July 8, 2020 at 11:29 am
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    WE LOVE THE PANKEY GRAMS, ESPECIALLY YOURS, LEE ANN!

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    July 8, 2020 at 12:11 pm
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    I agree! Giving the patient options to think about changes the approach, making it more dynamic and interesting. Great thoughts.

    Dr Brady do you ever use compounded topical anesthetic? (Like TAC-20) I have gotten away from it, but acknowledge it likely still has value for anxious patients.

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    • Avatar
      July 9, 2020 at 10:44 am
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      I tried it years ago, and then went back to the regular kind you get from a dental supplier.

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    July 8, 2020 at 12:35 pm
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    The little things add up to a great patient experience. I always enjoy your blogs Dr. Brady!

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    July 8, 2020 at 2:58 pm
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    Lee, I think this is a good example of honoring a patient’s power by giving them a choice. It might seem small, but it sends a powerful message.

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