The Dental Drill—love it (wait, does anyone really love it?) or hate it, for many it is a part of the twice-yearly dental visit. Even if you don’t hate it, at the very least it probably makes you uncomfortable when you walk in and see that shiny instrument sitting there just waiting for you. Knowledge is power—even when it comes to dental tools—so perhaps this list of 10 things about dentist drills will help allay any fears.
1. You May Think They Are Evil, but They Are a Necessary Evil
Dentist drills clean plaque off of teeth, thoroughly and quickly. If plaque remains on your teeth it can cause cavities, tooth decay, or even an abscess.
2. They Keep Your Teeth Strong
Drills not only get rid of plaque, but once your teeth are safe from cavities, this means that your teeth are stronger than ever.
3. They Aren’t Just Used to Clean
Drills are multipurpose dental tools—besides helping to give your teeth a good cleaning, they can also shape the tooth if you need a filling or crown. They are also used in root canals, and in removing old fillings or crowns.
4. They Are Actually Pretty Impressive Pieces of Machinery
The fanciest racing car engine has nothing on your favorite dentist’s drill. They can rotate at speeds up to 400,000 rpm, or even more. They are also impressive in that they are made of tungsten carbide, a material so tough that it is often used to make armor piercing ammunition. To top it off (literally!) many dental drills are covered in diamond, another notoriously hard material.
5. They’ve Come a Long Way
Drill use in dentistry can be traced back 1,000 years. The Mayans, Greeks, and Romans all used primitive drills made of stone, tube-shaped tools with a sharp point on the end. These drills would be twisted around in the tooth until a hole was made, in what had to be a very long and painful process.
6. They Are Still Being Improved Upon
Some enterprising scientists out there (who apparently hate drills so much that they are dedicating their lives to doing something about it) are looking ahead to a future without the traditional dental drill. These new drills may use streams of air or even lasers.
7. They Are Even Trying to Get Rid of that Horrible Noise
Even if you don’t fear the dentist, you probably hate the thought of that noise. The good news is that those clever scientists—once again—are making devices so that you don’t have to hear that noise at all. They aren’t in widespread use yet, but hopefully your dentist can get his hands on one soon.
8. Your Dentist Has Ways to Make Sure Drills Are Sparkly Clean
It is nice to know that your dentist, and in particular our dental office in Arlington, Texas, is following strict procedures for cleaning something that is going in your mouth, and has been in hundreds of other mouths. The dental hygienist uses germicidal wipes and an autoclave—a machine that uses high pressure saturated steam that is over 120 degrees—to make sure the drill that is about to go in your mouth is germ free.
9. There Are Techniques You Can Use to Squash Fears of the Drill
These include bringing an MP3 player to listen to so you can distract yourself, and relaxation and breathing techniques. Having a good dentist that you feel you can share your fears with is helpful as well.
10. There Are Ways to Avoid the Dental Drill Altogether
Your mother (and your dentist!) were right: brushing and flossing everyday is important. And, it’s the only way to ensure that you don’t have to see the drill at all at your next dentist visit.