If the dreaded drill keeps you away from the dentist, this new device could banish your fear with a simple headset.
The ominous buzz of the dental drill is enough to make some people avoid the dentist for years, even if they’ve never had a bad experience getting a cavity filled. The sound is one of the main causes of anxiety in the dental office, but researchers at several UK universities have come up with a clever invention that actually cancels out the sound.
Several different studies show that up to 75% of Americans have some level of fear related to visiting the dentist. An estimated 20% of Americans have so much anxiety that they avoid the dentist until absolutely necessary, according to Dr. Peter Milgrom of the Dental Fears Research Clinic in a WebMD article. These fears commonly stem from one of 2 things:
- Past experience – Many fearful patients associate going to the dentist with painful experiences of dentistry gone awry. Maybe a dentist failed to fully numb the tooth before drilling a few years before, or maybe their childhood dentist was gruff and scary to a young kid. They are afraid a similar situation might happen again, and being in a dental office reminds them of the unpleasant experience.
- Phobia – Some patients simply have an irrational, unexplainable fear of some element of dentistry. Sometimes it’s a side effect of another psychological issue.
Selective Noise Canceling
This device, still a prototype, doesn’t just cancel all sound. The inventors wanted dentists to still have the ability to communicate with patients during treatment. Rather, patients can plug this device into their MP3 player and plug their regular headphones into the device. Essentially, it sits between the MP3 player and the headphones acting as a filter.
It filters out the high-pitched sounds of the dental drill and suction equipment while allowing patients to listen to their own music and still hear the dentist’s voice. An article on Medical News Today explains how it works:
Containing a microphone and a chip that analyzes the incoming sound wave, 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 product is not yet on the market, but its inventors are confident that people will snap it up as soon as they secure an investor.