CALCiViS Articles

Your Patients Won’t Need To Be Scared Of The Dental Drill

There are few things more iconic in dentistry than the dental drill. Entirely unmistakeable, the high-pitched whine of a high-speed hand piece is considered one of the most recognisable noises in modern dentistry – and the one that inspires the most fear.

Indeed, according to statistics, as many as one in seven adults in the UK have, at one point, suffered from dental phobia.[1] The most commonly cited reason for this was the sound of the drill.

Quite why this should be the case is still unclear. The reasons that patients give vary widely depending on the individual. Nevertheless, it is believed that it has very little to do with the noise itself – rather, the fear is associative and is simply an audible representation of the expected pain of the impending dental work. Indeed, the sound and the perception of pain seem inextricably linked, with studies showing that those individuals who respond worse to the sound of the drill will subsequently experience greater pain.[2]

However, some studies have also indicated that the sound does trigger certain areas of the brain that are closely related to emotional response[3] – suggesting that the noise does have an affect on people at a neurological level. Sadly, this research is still very much in its infancy and more studies will be required to fully elucidate the meaning of these initial findings.

Shocking Number Of Dental Caries

What is clear, however, is why dental professionals need to use their drills so often. In the UK, it is estimated that approximately 31 per cent of the adult population is afflicted by dental caries.1 Furthermore, a shocking third of school age children across the country present with some level of dental decay.1

Of course, the most common treatment for patients with dental caries is the removal of all decayed material and filling the subsequent cavity with a filling material. Indeed, in most cases, nothing more than this can be done. Enamel decay can be arrested and will repair itself if identified early. However, this regenerative capacity is lost once cavitation occurs meaning the softer, more sensitive dentine and pulp layers of the tooth are exposed. If allowed to progress further, the restorative spiral increases with even more invasive treatments, like a root canal or, in the worse cases, extraction of the affected tooth.

It is these later procedures that most often necessitate the use of the dental drill and are, thus, the most common culprits for dental fear. While an individual filling may not take a particularly long time, a phobic patient will hate every moment of the procedure. This is naturally exacerbated in the case of a root canal, which will take far longer than a simple restorative filling – and requires more extensive use of the drill.

CALCiViS imaging system

With the new CALCiViS imaging system, however, clinicians can identify active demineralisation on the surface of a tooth in its earliest and most reversible stages. Through innovative bioluminescent (light-emitting) technology, the CALCiViS imaging system can help clinicians practice true preventive dentistry, effectively reducing the need for the dental drill – after all, a tooth doesn’t need drilling if the decay has been spotted early!

There are many positive aspects to preventive dentistry beyond the simple need to improve the nation’s overall oral health. By treating patients for dental decay preventively, and avoiding the need for ‘drilling and filling’, phobic patients won’t need to face the dreaded sounds of the dental drill.

To find out more, contact the expert CALCiViS team today


[1] Oral Health Foundation: National Smile Month, Facts and Figures.
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[2] The Guardian: Scared of the dentist? This is why, say neuroscientists. Published online: 10/11/13;
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[3] Common Health: Drilling Into Our Fear Of The Dentist – And What To Do About It. Published online: 20/12/13;
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[4] KCL: Those with dental phobia more likely to have cavities or missing teeth, study confirms. Published online: 20/04/17;
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[5] NHS England: NHS dental services in England: An independent review led by Professor Jimmy Steele, June 2009.
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Industry Opinions on CALCiViS

  • Our purpose as a dental team is to provide our patients with a full range of high quality dental care in a relaxed, hygienic environment to help them achieve excellent oral health and create happy, beautiful smiles.

    With this is mind we have recently invested in the CALCIVIS imaging system – an exciting technological and scientific breakthrough in the provision of preventive dental care

    Dr Leanne Branton
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