What is The Dental Wand STA System?
The Wand is essentially a computer-controlled dental injection. Many people who have had a bad experience with injections think that needles sting because the skin is pierced, but this is usually not so. Mostly, the stinging sensation is caused by the anaesthetic being put in too quickly.
With The Wand, the flow rate of the local anaesthetic is controlled by a computer. This means that the injection is guaranteed to be slow and steady and therefore comfortable.
Real Life Story: The Magic Wand
Jo* had suffered from a lifetime of anxiety whenever visiting the dentist, as a throwback to bad childhood experiences. Thanks to the Wand, Jo’s fear of needles is now a thing of the past:
Dentists can control the speed with a standard syringe by – you’ve guessed it – just slowing down. But the idea of the Wand is to take out the “human error”. This can be very reassuring if you’ve had a previous bad experience with injections. A lot of people with needle phobia describe the Wand as their Magic Wand…
What does the Wand look like?
The Wand doesn’t look like a syringe. Welcome to the space age…
As you can see in the photo, the “hardware” looks similar to a miniature computer tower with brightly coloured buttons. On the top of the tower sits a cartridge with local anaesthetic. A tube connects this to a pen-like handpiece:
Spoiler alert: the pen does sport a small needle (you’ve got to get the local anaesthetic in there somehow).
Because it is held like a pen, the Wand is easy to handle and prevents getting cramps in the hand. To start the computer, the dentist uses a foot pedal (the black thingy in the photo) connected to the computer tower. The computer does the rest. That way, they can focus all their attention on holding the pen in the right position.
The flow rate is also the maximum absorption rate: this means as well as being slow and comfortable, the tooth can get more numb with less anaesthetic.
Another nifty thing about the Wand is that it has pressure feedback. So if it meets resistance, it slows down (with the standard technique, some dentists might be tempted to push a little harder when they meet resistance – which is a common cause of pain during injections).
In case you are wondering about infection control: the cartridge holder, tube and wand handpiece are all single-use disposables.
A STA is born
Nowadays, the Wand is equipped with a STA (Single Tooth Anaesthesia) function (hence the name Wand® STA). The STA mode allows the tooth to be numbed with less numbness to the surrounding area. This is great if you hate the numb feeling, as the lip and tongue go far less numb, or not numb at all. It also has huge advantages for kids, as it reduces the risk of them accidentally biting their lip while numb.
The Wand STA has two modes:
- The first mode is the traditional wand technique. It now has three speeds so that the delivery can be made faster after the initial slow bit.
- The second mode is the Single Tooth Anaesthesia (STA) mode. This uses a different needle, and has a visual gauge and emits little beeps to let the operator know when they’ve placed the needle correctly.
It can even speak! For example, it will say “cruise” to let the dentist know when they can use cruise control mode.
In the following video, a dentist explains the wand:
What are the advantages?
- The Wand looks non-threatening and almost cute. Researchers have found that the Wand induces less anxiety than any other injection method 1
- The precise control of flow rate and pressure reliably produces a comfortable injection – even in potentially more difficult areas like the palate.
- Dentists like the light weight and easy handling. The penlike grasp allows them to easily rotate the handpiece, which can make it easier to glide the needle into the tissue. The traditional syringe can be quite hard on the hands (especially if you’re prone to getting cramps), in which case the Wand can be a blessing. Why drive a manual when you can drive an automatic?
- Some fancy injection techniques (the AMSA and P-ASA) are much more comfortable and effective when the Wand is used.
- You can numb a single tooth (see “A STA is born” above).
What are the disadvantages?
So why do so few dentists use the Wand if it’s that cool?
- Cost. It’s a lot more expensive than using traditional syringes, both for the machine and the disposables. Because the cartridge holder, tube and handpiece are disposables, there’s a larger volume of hazardous waste (and higher costs for getting rid of the extra waste).
- More plastic waste.
- If you wanted to rely on the Wand alone, you’d have to buy a backup Wand in case one breaks down.
- Takes time (and willing guinea pigs – usually staff or other dentists) to learn.
- Takes up extra space.
- A lot of dentists are happy with their painless injection techniques and don’t see the need for it.
What people on our forum have said about the Wand
The wand is truly awesome – it has totally changed my attitude towards visiting the dentists… I was going to have IV sedation but have now decided I’ll be ok with just the wand!
I didn’t even flinch when he did the freezing with The Wand… it was barely noticeable! Just like many have indicated here, the Wand is truly something every dentist needs. Sure, some dentists feel it’s not necessary, but the regular syringes are scary!
It looks like a pen and it’s wicked!
Fortunately, I found a dentist who caters to needle-phobics. He uses the wand, as well as “syringes” that don’t look like needles. I knew a shot was coming, but because I didn’t see it, I didn’t panic. It was brilliant, and the most painless injection I’ve ever had.
The wand is a gift from god.
QuickSleeper and Dentapen
The Wand is not the only computer-controlled local anaesthetic delivery system on the market. Other examples include:
- QuickSleeper 5 (more common in Europe and, increasingly, the UK)
- Dentapen (an electronic syringe from Septodont).
They both fulfil the same basic function as the Wand (i.e. a slow and steady injection).
The Dentapen is more basic than The Wand, which makes for less maintenance and less spare parts that need to be bought. There’s also not much of a learning curve. But it doesn’t do anything extra special like single tooth anaesthesia.
The QuickSleeper’s special trick is the intraosseous injection, which can come in handy for lower molars or if you have a fear of feeling numb.
How can I find a dentist who uses the Wand or similar?
In the UK, you can find out which dentists in your area offer the Wand or STA system through the UK distributor, Dental Sky. They can be contacted by phone on 0800 294 4700 or by email at [email protected].
Or simply google for your dentist + your town + Wand (or Quicksleeper, or Dentapen).
If you’d like to talk about the Wand or anything else related to dental fears, visit our support forum!
I’m a dentist – where can I find out more?
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Footnotes and Sources of Information
*not their real name
- Kudo M, Ohke H, Katagiri K, et al. The shape of local anesthetic injection syringes with less discomfort and anxiety — evaluation of discomfort and anxiety caused by various types of local anaesthetic injection syringes in high level trait-anxiety people. J Jpn Dent Soc Anesthesiol 2001; 29:173–178.