Narrator: This is Science Today. Contrary to popular belief, trips to the dentist are not often that painful. University of California, San Francisco research scientist Allan Bassbaum says that's because dentists commonly use local anesthetics, which block pain signals from going to the spinal cord, where they will be stored as a memory.
Bassbaum: In a sense the dentist is way ahead of the game, because when they do surgical procedures, in the rare case they might use nitric oxide, but most of the time what they're really doing is injecting local anesthetics. That's the best way because the local anesthetic makes sure that the spinal cord or the teeth in the case of a dentist, never experiences the injury that the dentist is inflicting.
Narrator: While a local anesthetic may block neurotransmitters from sending their messages of pain, Bassbaum says it does not eliminate post-operative pain completely.
Bassbaum: But the assumption is that the amount of post-operative pain one would have would be a lot worse if you did the procedure either without the local anesthetic in the first place, or under general.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.