Fear of the Drill & Dental Phobia


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If any one image is closely connected to the idea of dentistry, it is the drill. The most well known tool in a dentist’s surgery is also the one that people fear the most. This is a very specific fear in that it focuses upon a single item of equipment rather than a scenario, event or general aspect of dentistry. Fear of the drill generally is associated to the noise of the drill and also its intimidating nature, read on for more information.

What is a dental drill and what is it used for?

A dental drill is a common tool used by dentists worldwide. It is a small piece of equipment to allow for easy manoeuvring inside the mouth, and the business end is composed of a high speed drill bit. A dental drill is typically used to remove any decayed material that develops as a consequence of tooth decay (also called dental caries), a condition in which bacteria cause the decomposition of hard material in teeth. This decaying material must be removed to avoid its spread to the rest of the tooth or its roots, which would result in the painful extraction of the tooth.

Dental drills are designed to rotate at very high speeds so that they can do their job as quickly as possible. The drill head, the part that actually drills into the tooth, is usually a metal alloy with a diamond or tungsten carbide coating. This makes the tip hard enough to drill through the hard material in teeth with ease.

The dental drill and fear

It can be very scary to have a noisy drill coming towards your mouth as you lie still, knowing that the drill bit is meant to drill holes into your teeth. Personal experience can also be a major contributory factor. If you have had an experience with the drill in which you haven’t been sufficiently anaesthetised, you may have endured considerable pain throughout the procedure. This can leave its mark psychologically, and it would be no surprise at all if, after an experience like that, you aren’t too keen on repeating it. If this is the case however, rest assured that if properly anaesthetised you won’t feel a thing, and if you feel this is a concern, talk to your dentist about it.

Fortunately newer drills are being made to be quieter to try and remove any association with pain that you may have upon hearing them operate. Even without the ominous drilling sound however, the prospect of being on the receiving end of a dental drill can bear with it other concerns. Like, for example, a fear of accidents taking place in your mouth, for example, a drill slipping or catching on something it shouldn’t!

Dealing with the fear of drilling

Talking to your dentist is the first and foremost step in addressing this kind of dental phobia. Remember that you dentist is experienced in such matters, and is very likely to be able to help you or, at the very least, point you in the right direction. Distraction techniques to get rid of the sound of a drill can be invaluable in making you feel comfortable while in the dentist’s chair. You can either ask your dentist to put on the radio, or rather just plug in some headphones and listen to some music. The higher the volume in these instances, the less sound there will be, and hence the more comfortable you might be with the dentist’s drill. You can actually find tracks designed to remove the sound of a dental drill online, available as free downloads for anyone looking to use this technique.

Other similar methods include using a TV or DVD as a distraction, although unlike an mp3 player, you can’t really bring your own along. Some dentists will have these facilities if you are looking for them. Alternative techniques include becoming familiar with the equipment itself, if you ask your dentist, they will give you an opportunity to get a feel for the equipment, which might be enough to make you feel more comfortable. Similarly, watching the drill being used can be helpful to some people, although for others it may be more distressing. Either way, you may be able to speak to your dentist if interested in viewing a procedure, or take a quick look online at various dental phobia forums, there are videos of a drill being used available on YouTube to the same end.

A final alternative is the air abrasion method, which uses compressed air rather than a drill bit and can, if you are afraid of the drill, be a good option for you.


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