New invention will dull noise of dental drill

Engineering experts have dreamed up an innovative new device that gets rid of the noise of the dental drill.

And this could put paid to people’s fears of a trip to the dentist.

Experts at King’s College London, Brunel University and London South Bank University, pioneered the invention as it is well known the sound of the dental drill is a contributing factor to people’s fears.

Some patients even avoid trips to the dentist because of it.

Now this new device could help address those fears and encourage people to seek the oral healthcare treatment they need. 

The prototype design works in a similar way to noise-cancelling headphones but is designed to deal with the very high pitch of the dental drill.

Patients can unplug their headphones, plug the device into their MP3 player or mobile phone, and then plug the headphones into the device, allowing them to listen to their own music while completely blocking out the sound of the drill and suction equipment.

The patient can still hear the dentist and other members of the dental team speaking to them but other unwanted sounds are filtered out by the device.

Containing a microphone and a chip that analyses the incoming soundwave, the device produces an inverted wave to cancel out unwanted noise.

It also uses technology called ‘adaptive filtering’ where electronic filters lock onto sound waves and removes them, even if the amplitude and frequency change as the drill is being used. 

The device was initially the brainchild of Professor Brian Millar, at King’s College London’s Dental Institute, who was inspired initially by carmaker Lotus’ efforts to develop a system that removed unpleasant road noise, while still allowing drivers to hear emergency sirens.

Since then, a prototype has been designed, built and successfully evaluated.  

Although the product is not yet available to dental practitioners, King’s is calling for an investor to help bring it to market.

Professor Millar said: ‘Many people put off going to the dentist because of anxiety associated with the noise of the dentist’s drill. But this device has the potential to make fear of the drill a thing of the past. 

‘The beauty of this gadget is that it would be fairly cost-effective for dentists to buy, and any patient with an MP3 player would be able to benefit from it, at no extra cost.

‘What we need now is an investor to develop the product further, to enable us to bring this device to as many dental surgeries as possible, and help people whose fear of visiting the dentist stops them from seeking the oral healthcare they need.’

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