Hands up, who doesn’t get just the teensiest bit nervous about going to the dentist? Not many of you, I’ll wager. Dentophobia – fear of dentists and dental care – is one of the most common phobias, and it’s the high-pitched whine of the dentist’s drill that causes most anxiety. If this applies to you, take heart. You may soon be able to relax (or at least tune out the sound of the drill) and listen to music on your own MP3 player, connected to a noise-canceling device developed by Kings College London in conjunction with Brunel University and London South Bank University.

The prototype device works in a similar way to noise-canceling headphones. It contains a microphone and a chip that analyzes the incoming sound wave, and produces an inverted wave that cancels out unwanted noise. Designed to deal with the very high pitch of the dental drill, it also uses adaptive filtering, where electronic filters lock onto sound waves and remove them, even if the amplitude and frequency change as the drill is being used.

  1. Snyde the Remarkable says:

    Just so everyone is forewarned, I now own the rights to the inverted sound wave of a high speed dentist’s drill and I intend to sue the asses off anyone and everyone who sells, purchases or uses this device.

    [Nyah, nyah, nyah… I used it. – ed.]

  2. Skeptic says:

    What’s worse; hearing the sound and bracing for impact, or waiting for impact without any warning? I’ll take the sound thanks.

  3. Mouring says:

    Not sure if it is as much the sound or impact as sitting there for an hour or two with your jaw wide open as someone shoves their face in your face and their hands down your throat. =) All the while talking utter medical gibberish.

    I have to keep fighting the urge not to bite down on the dentist’s finger, elbow them in the gut, and tell them to get the hell out of m personal space and speak English. =)

    However, I may be just crazy. *weak smile*

  4. rabidmonkey says:

    Cool idea, but what about the fact that your entire head vibrates as well. It’s like the same principle as those bone-conduction earpieces for cell phones. How can you block THAT out?

  5. WmDE says:

    My dentist doesn’t use hi-speed drills. He uses a stationary drill. It’s the chair that rotates.

  6. crockocrap says:

    I don’t see how this would neutralize the sound that’s delivered via bone conduction which is much worse than what comes in via the ear drums. Especially when the source of the sound is directly vibrating teeth to bone to skull.

    So this must be utter bullshiat.

  7. deowll says:

    #6 I agree. Bone conduction is not going to get canceled, nor the smell nor the chips flying. Just thinking about his makes me want to go AAAAHHHHH!!!!!

  8. So what says:

    “Hands up, who doesn’t get just the teensiest bit nervous about going to the dentist?” That would be me. A bit of advice, find a really good dentist and don’t ever let them go. Mine is in his 70’s with no intent of retiring.

  9. hhopper says:

    It still takes your ears to hear the bone conducted sound… and the canceling sound from your headphones can cancel it out.

  10. Holdfast says:

    #9 I’m afraid that you can’t cancel out bone conduction. Nouse cancelling headphones etc cancel out sound waves from the air. Unless you fit a microphone to your jawbone, that will still be there.
    It is a different noise to what you hear over the air too. It would be lower pitched, so the noise cancelling would not even be trying.

  11. BigBoyBC says:

    It’s not the sound that bothers me, its the drill cutting into the tooth, the sudden shot of pain as the drill hits the nerve that wasn’t quite numbed enough and the Dentist saying “whoops” that kills me…

  12. bobbo, I'm no scientist, but I am a High School grad -u - wait says:

    Not knowing sh*t, I’ll go with #10. Just the construction of “it takes your ears to hear the bone conducted sound” doesn’t make sense just from the words used. It “reads out” BONE CONDUCTED sound whereas ears are those flappy things on either side of our heads? Kinda like reading the Second Amendment without giving any meaning to “in order to establish a well regulated militia.

    Hopper, this subtle interplay of strongly heald dogma and word avoidance leads me to conclude in a Sherlock Holmes manner that you are a gun nut!

    This has nothing to do with this post which is fine and good on its own but isn’t there just a whole lot going on now that I’m not reading about in a blog?

    I heard that Gifford is now qualified to be a Republican?

    Tom Delay is still decrying his innocence after getting a 3 year jail term.

    Hottest and wettest and heaviest snow fall in recorded history?

    Illinois raising taxes from 3 to 5 percent–a 66% increase in State Taxes to cover the deficit caused by idiotic no-tax and spend?

    Reaction to Gifford becoming a Republican: PUKES to carry firearms into the Congressional Chambers.

    Strong PUKE reaction against any change to gun clip law.

    Palin caving among “moderate” Republican leaders.

    Websters considering change to its definition of moderate to include: “Still f*cking crazy.”

    Lots of good stuff going on all note worthy.

  13. admfubar says:

    ah if only your dentist is like this one

  14. Special Ed says:

    I just grab my dentist by the balls and ask, “we’re not going to hurt each other, are we?”

  15. bobbo, always the squeaky wheel, defending YOUR rights and safety says:

    Am I the only one? I have to tell half the dentists I go to: “Please have your assistant hand your tools to you without going over my face? I rely on my eyes to see and I’d hate to suffer an injury because of a dropped instrument.”

    Seems they all take offense to that request. Its all “drill, fill, and bill” for those guys.

    Not a “service” but a job to make way more money than they are worth. Dental School for the masses: about 6 months half of which is learning when to make referals to what we call dentists today.

    Same with the rest of medicine too. Plus, they are all too bored with the repetitive non-challenging nature of their jobs.

    Cue Animby if he’s not avoiding any article regarding these drop outs.

  16. Animby says:

    Bobbo – I’m in. But I have a conflict of interest. I occasionally have dinner (and more) with my lovely dentist. She is Thai but attended university and dental school in Chicago. I originally fell in love with her because she has these tiny little hands…

    As for the non-challenging, repetitive nature of our work? You may find it hard to believe but, when I was in “civilized” practice, I could see a dozen sore throats a day and each one was different and fascinating and … oh what the hell. I was bored stiff. That’s one reason I do what I do. Referrals? We don’ give no stinkin’ referrals in the mountains of Burma!

    But back to dentistry – why are they improving the drilling when just a few months ago I read the drill was about to be obsoleted by lasers?

  17. bobbo, always the squeaky wheel, defending YOUR rights and safety says:

    Animby–they aren’t touching the drill, they are touching the headsets. But that aside, “small hands.” I had a girlfriend like you who was a dental assistant who also had small hands. She used to comment on some of the knowledgeable dentists who shouldn’t be practicing because their hands were too large. Made me think of proctology and the like. Difference between knowing and doing so often prevails. Maybe its just the difference between fisting and knuckling? Ha, ha.

    Besides not being smart enough, being any good at rote memory, having the time or money to go to med school, what really turned me off was the idea of being around sick people and their complaints all the time. Unfortunately, all too often you can’t just treat the disease, you gotta deal with the person the disease is attached to, and even worse, associated family members. Ha, ha.

    All jobs/most jobs ultimately are mostly boredom and that forms our expectations allowing for the most minimal of difference to become “exciting.” Thats why people charge for their services. The boredom.

    Its the pro and con of human intelligence–accepting what we commonly experience as the norm, to be expected.

    Pro’s and Con’s to all we do.

  18. Animby says:

    Just a thought, Bob:
    A lot of cons were pros before they got caught.

    I made several good friends while in school but one stands out, my biochemistry professor. Though he is long retired now, we still chat a couple of times a week when I’m in town. He told us in our first class, anybody can be a doctor. All you need to graduate MD is a good memory.

    To that, I would add, “and money.”

    The practice of medicine is really the “art” of applying those memories (and all the new information you get along the way). Dentists, on the other hand, need to be skilled sculptors and engineers in addition to the medicine involved. Even more so than, say, plastic surgeons. Soft flesh is so much more forgiving than hard enamel.

    “you can’t just treat the disease, you gotta deal with the person” I can imagine it used to be a lot easier when the patients were unquestioning penitents at the feet of the godly physician. Unfortunately, I came too late for that era.

    “Thats why people charge for their services. The boredom.” I suppose that’s one reason why I don’t charge my patients, anymore. But, if I see one more snake bite or one more bisected foot from an ill-aimed machete – I might start charging a chicken or two…

  19. Glenn E. says:

    If your Dentist resists using any kind of anesthesia, before drilling. RUN AWAY! There’s no reason for doing this, other than saving the Dentist the cost of such drugs. The sound of drills is another matter. Dental tech advances at a snail’s pace. Mechanical spinning drills should have been replaced by some kind of ultra high vibrating device. But getting Dentists to abandon old, less costly tech, for something newer and better, is like pulling teeth. So the “noise canceling” problem has become the patient’s problem.

  20. rabidmonkey says:

    To all posters who mentioned the “bone-conduction” thing (#6, #7, #9, & #10): I already mentioned that in my #4 post. What part did you miss there when I already mentioned that? LOLZ!
    Sometimes it pays to read prior posts before you post your own. The point you try to make may have already been brought up in the conversation.

  21. bobbo, words have meaning says:

    rabid–don’t be silly. You said your whole head vibrates. That would be easy to correct with a whole head anti vibrator. No, you can’t be so general. Gotta narrow it down to where the rubber meets the road.

  22. Animby says:

    #21 – Bobbo – I saw one of those on Star Trek. Something about the vibrator/anti-vibrator helped Scottie make the ship come fast. I mean “go” fast.

  23. Dustry says:

    I like the sound of the drill.

  24. pashipskit says:

    I always refuse any anesthetic. Dentist don’t like that at all but they comply or I leave.

    Yes there can be intense pain, but it eventually stops leaving my system full of endorphins(SP?).

    I much prefer this way. The dentist tends to be more CAREFUL when he knows I feel everything.

    I’m hypersensitive to components of the anesthetic they use, so I am much better off not letting them use it. MUCH less suffering overall.

  25. hhopper says:

    It doesn’t matter how the sound gets to the ears… either bone conduction or through the ear canal, the ear drum and tiny bones have to receive the vibration to register as a sound. The identically opposite sound waves coming in through the ear canal cancel the sound waves coming in through bone conduction. They’ve tested this apparatus and it works.

  26. Snyde the Remarkable says:

    #25 hhopper

    According to the perfectly reasonable rate scale established in court by the RIAA/MPAA, you owe me $423,269.49 for a single use of my copyrighted inverted sound wave of a high speed dentist’s drill — and I’d best not see it posted anywhere on the Internet, else then you’ll be in real trouble!


  27. bobbo, I'm no scientist, but I am a High School grad -u - wait says:

    As I remember from 8th grade biology: what the brain “hears” is the electrical signal sent to it by the tiny hairs on the cochlea (sp?-fact?-can’t remember the name which is why I dropped out of pre-med) which vibrate in response to the ear drum vibrating from air waves. This motion is transferred thru the ear bones to the cochlea. Then the cochlea transfers this physical motion/vibration to the tiny hairs which vibrate according to their location/natural harmonics/length or whatever creating the electrical signal. Like everything else in the universe: everything is connected, meaning that the ear drum, ear bones, and cochlea are all attached to the bones of the skull. If the bones of the skull vibrate, as in when you fall off a motorcycles without a helmet then this vibration will be picked up as a “sound” as well. Two totally different sources of the originating vibration that are funneled thru the same structure AFTER the ear drum. Can bone vibration be picked up by only the cochlea skipping the ear bones as well? I don’t know, I’d think so with such background chatter happening all the time and it being canceled out by the brain due to the stronger signal normally present from the ear drum?

    The brain. Electricity. Self Awareness. The illusion of perceived reality. Great Stuff.

  28. KD Martin says:

    Hopper’s post makes sense. Regardless of how the final sensor (ear to brain) is stimulated, a strong enough precision cancellation wave set will get rid of almost all the freq. range being targeted. I’ve some noise canceling headphones that do a remarkable job of filtering jet engines. I’ll bet drivers for canceling high freq. dentist drills are expensive. A nice application unless you’re 80 and can’t hear the drill anyway).


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