Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dentists' Drills Are Dying – Thank God!

A dentist’s drill since its inception has been an object of terror for most. While on the one hand technologists strive to improve drill machines, on the other, researchers seem to be trying to eliminate the medical instrument called “dentist’s drill.”

Researchers conducting experiments at the King's College London have made headway to use Raman spectroscopy in detecting tooth trouble so early, that only simple repair work would be needed, thus eliminating the need for a dentist’s drill to even surface. The study has been published in the Society of Chemical Industry (SCI) magazine “Chemistry & Industry.”

The Tooth Troubleshooting Technology

This technology employs the principles of Raman Spectroscopy. Raman Spectroscopy is a technique that has applications in condensed matter physics and chemistry for studying low-frequency modes within a system (rotational, vibrational, etc.) This means that using this technology, scientists can distinguish between different chemicals by assessing the unique fingerprints of molecules within them.

In its proposed dental application, Raman Spectroscopy can differentiate between healthy and decaying teeth, here’s how?

Light rays are shone at a tooth by means of a mini optical fiber. The light then scatters around the tooth based on the tooth’s chemistry. Since different chemicals scatter light differently, by analyzing the patterns produced and comparing them to those found in healthy teeth, dentists can find out the actual health of the teeth. For instance, if the light fired at a tooth encounters bacteria, it would disperse differently than if it doesn’t. Once discovered at an early stage the bad tooth could just need to be treated with special mouthwashes and varnishes to achieve remineralization.

This is a paradigm shift from the current procedures, which rely on either X-rays or visual examination to make the assessment. However, by the time a cavity is diagnosed it’s often too late to avoid the drilling & filling treatment, ugh!

How About The Coziness?

To me everything about a dentist’s drill is scary, just the drill’s sound is enough to make me queasy. And I believe that many others share the sentiment. And when it actually drills through, the sensation is quite memorable. Ouch!

If the newly proposed technology takes over within the next five years, as that’s the time it’s expected to take, then this procedure claimed to be painless shall prevail.

One thing however, which is of concern is that the patient would need to stay stationary till the process lasts for about 30 seconds. Which might need a bit of a practice, but it’s surely better than a painful drilling experience.

The promise of the technology is surely quite encouraging. Till the time it comes to the rescue, I plan to maintain a good dental hygiene, and if need be, not be intimidated by the abominable dental instrument, “the drill.” After all, it does save teeth!

No comments: