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Kovanaze numbs the nerve pathways to upper teeth without numbing lips and cheeks. Image courtesy of Kovanaze

If You Fear the Dentist, We Have Good News

An anesthetic invented in Fort Collins could change the face of dentistry—by way of the nose.

A dentist reaching for a needle is the stuff of horror films for some nervous patients. But thanks to Fort Collins drug-development company St. Renatus, that shot to the gums could soon be replaced with something far less terrifying: a nasal spray. The two-ingredient solution, called Kovanaze, launched nationwide this past summer after receiving Food and Drug Administration approval in 2016. The first ingredient, oxymetazoline (a decongestant), clears the nasal passage for the second ingredient, tetracaine (a numbing agent). Tetracaine travels through wet tissue in the nasal passage to nerves linked to the 10 upper front teeth, numbing the “smile zone” but not the lips and cheeks—meaning patients can go from their dentist appointments to coffee meetings without that telltale drool. Many Colorado dental practices have adopted the spray, and universities across the country are beginning trials this year to investigate whether Kovanaze could help treat other dental and medical issues. Now if only a simple spray could eliminate that scary dentist’s drill.

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