Prototype device dampens dental drill sounds in mouth

Search Dental Tribune

Prototype device dampens dental drill sounds in the mouth

Left to right: Project members Conor Allan, Elizabeth Dolan, Daniel Shenkelman and David Paik. (Image: Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University)

Thu. 9 May 2024


BALTIMORE, US: Engineering students at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore have collaborated with a Florida dentist to develop a prototype device that reduces the sound of a dental drill being used in the mouth. Based on noise cancellation technology, the device reduces vibrations that occur in the mouth and aims to make patients more comfortable during dental treatment.

Finding himself on the receiving end of dental treatment, Tallahassee dentist Dr Jordan Rigsby was surprised how loud modern dental drills can be for patients. He said in a press release by Johns Hopkins University: “It was really jarring. Our dental drills are very quiet these days, but the conduction from the bone to the ear results in the sound being quite loud for many patients. It made me understand why patients dreaded that sound almost as much as they worried about pain during dental procedures.”

Dr Rigsby made an experimental model that utilised principles of noise cancellation and contacted the university’s senior design programme to see whether students could help to refine it. The press release explained that mechanical engineering majors Conor Allan, Elizabeth Dolan, David Paik and Daniel Shenkelman further developed Dr Rigsby’s idea using a model of a skull and their own mouths as sound conductors.

“This is a difficult problem to solve, and there is no commercially available solution.”— Daniel Shenkelman, engineering student 

Shenkelman told the university: “The device picks up vibrations and produces an ‘anti-noise’ wave that is the exact opposite of the unwanted noise.” He explained that the noise and anti-noise cancel one another out, “like adding -1 to 1, equalling zero”.

The university said that the prototype device differs from headphones, the technology that is most associated with noise cancellation, in that headphones capture vibrations from the air and the prototype device dampens vibrations that occur in the mouth.

“This is a difficult problem to solve, and there is no commercially available solution,” Shenkelman added.

The team’s device was presented at the engineering school’s annual design day on 1 May and has been used at Dr Rigsby’s dental clinic.

To post a reply please login or register