The dental drill has been done an enormous injustice by popular culture. Even if you’re not a fan of scary movies, you probably aren’t too keen on going into any dentist appointment that involves the drill. Between second-hand horror stories and the way the drill is presented in the media, it’s no wonder most people are scared of it.
But what if we told you that not only are drilling procedures far from frightening, but that the majority of time, they cause little to no pain?
Doctors of all sorts use equipment in order to perform medical procedures. Most of us are familiar with the common surgery scene in movies and television where the doctor asks his assistants for the scalpel, among many other tools. These pieces of equipment were engineered to perform a specific, delicate task — one that could make the difference between life and death. Under the highly specialized hand of the surgeon, equipment that would otherwise be dangerous is in fact used to increase the chances of a healthy, pain-free life.
What’s more, patients undergoing surgery are properly prepared for it with the appropriate type of anesthesia. The same is true for dental procedures that involve a drill.
The dental handpiece, commonly referred to as a drill, is a highly specialized piece of equipment that in no way resembles common household drills. The instruments rotate at speeds up to an incredible 400,000 rpm, making them fast and accurate. In fact, the speed of the drill is what creates the particular high-pitched drill noise — a sound that arguably causes more discomfort than the drilling itself!
When a patient has a cavity, it’s imperative to remove the soft, decaying part of the tooth enamel. Leaving decayed enamel in the tooth will cause the decay to spread, which comprises the integrity of the entire tooth, and by extension your overall oral health. Because tooth enamel is one of the hardest parts of our bodies, dentists must carefully use the drill to access and clean out the affected area. The drill doesn’t remove healthy parts of the tooth; it simply allows the dentist to remove decay.
With proper numbing, all you will feel during a drilling procedure is slight pressure where the drill comes into contact with the tooth and a little bit of vibration from the speed of its motor.
Even though the drill doesn’t cause pain under normal circumstances, the experience can still cause patients some anxiety. Thankfully, there are many options available to make it more comfortable. Many dentists encourage patients to bring in a portable music player and noise-canceling headphones to help block out the noise of the drill. Some people like to bring in a special blanket or pillow to help them relax and feel more comfortable in the dentist’s chair. Oftentimes you can even arrange to watch a movie during the procedure!
If you have to undergo a procedure involving the drill, don’t let the media hype make you anxious. With today’s equipment and anesthetics, the drill is truly nothing to worry about. Start an open dialogue with your dentist about your concerns. Arrange to test out the effectiveness of the numbing product before the dentist uses the drill. Ask for more anesthetic if you feel it wearing off. And most of all, don’t let sensationalistic stories prevent you from getting the important dental care you need.
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