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Noise-canceling device plugs into your MP3 player, removes sound of dental drill


January 14, 2011

A device has been developed that cancels out the noise of the dental drill, and allows you to listen to music on your own MP3 player while still being able to talk with the dental team

A device has been developed that cancels out the noise of the dental drill, and allows you to listen to music on your own MP3 player while still being able to talk with the dental team

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.

Patients would plug the device into their MP3 player or mobile phone, and then plug their headphones into the device, allowing them to listen to Mozart, Metallica or M.I.A. instead of the drill and suction equipment. They would still be able to converse with the dentist or dental nurse.

Professor Brian Millar of King’s College London’s Dental Institute was inspired by carmaker Lotus’ efforts to develop a system that removed unpleasant road noise, while still allowing drivers to hear emergency sirens. He has spent 10 years working with research engineers at Brunel University and London South Bank University to bring it to its current prototype stage.

Kings College is now looking for an investor to help take the device to market.

"Many people put off going to the dentist because of anxiety associated with the noise of the dentist’s drill. But this device has the potential to make fear of the drill a thing of the past," said Professor Millar.

"The beauty of this gadget is that it would be fairly cost-effective for dentists to buy, and any patient with an MP3 player would be able to benefit from it, at no extra cost. What we need now is an investor to develop the product further, to enable us to bring this device to as many dental surgeries as possible, and help people whose fear of visiting the dentist stops them from seeking the oral healthcare they need."

Now, if only someone could invent a device to help us deal with fear of injections at the dentist.


It\'s actually the low-frequency grinding sound from drilling , transmitted from tooth to bone throughout my body that causes me anxiety.

William Lanteigne

I\'ve heard rumors of this from my dentist and I\'m glad to hear the problem of changing frequencies has been mostly solved. Hurry up and invest, somebody! This is something I would buy myself!

The high noise is definitely what causes me the most anxiety - the rest of it isn\'t a walk in the park either and the low-frequency vibrations that feel like they\'re drilling directly into the jaw will quickly become my new \'worst part\' I think. Still, that\'s always the quickest part! When I think of all the money (and pain) I could have saved over the years had this device been available sooner.

Von Meerman

use better dentists - i visit pro dentists who use special high speed drills, which do not produce so terrific high pitch voice. Yes, it is a bit more expensive - normally in czech republic the dentists care is for free or for about 10-20$, this is about 80$, but it worth every penny and i would never come to my previous dentists

Tomáš Kapler

Will is right, High or low-freqs from bone conduction is mostly how we hear tooth drills. I wouldn\'t be going to see a dentist who didn\'t understand this basic point!

Daniel Brown

I found myself in a dentist chair a few weeks ago, I couldn't help but think to myself amongst all the drilling going on, "..hhmmmm, I wonder how long it will take before somebody develops a drill noise suppression device?"

I mused that perhaps this would be a combination of entertainment device/headphones for the patient that are linked to a microphone the dental technician wears for talking to the patient, ..and a bone induction transducer/microphone, which is perhaps integrated into that wedge thing they put into the side of your mouth they aren't working on which helps you keep your mouth wide open, which using bone conduction/induction principles could continuously sample drilling frequencies to process and in-turn relay noise cancelling frequencies directly back to your jawbone.

So, the team at Kings college, ..niCe worK!, ..and best wishes for getting this into production.

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