The Sounds of Science: Noises You May Encounter at Your Dentist’s Office

The American Dental Association estimates that as many as 40 million Americans avoid receiving professional dental care because they find visiting the dentist extremely unpleasant. Dental fear and anxiety can be prompted by a number of factors, including unpleasant memories of the dentist, a fear of losing physical control, the influence of friends and family members who dislike dental care, and a general distaste for the sensations associated with dentistry. It may come as a surprise to people who don’t have a problem seeking out dental care, but even the sounds one encounters in a dental office can make some patients extremely uncomfortable. Today, we’re taking exploring a few potentially unsettling sounds you might hear at your next appointment, and what you can do to stay relaxed despite the noise.

Three Common Sources of Noise at the Dental Office:

  • Cone Beam CT Scan. This high tech imaging technology takes the same kind of picture as a conventional digital x-ray, but at multiple angles so the resulting image shows a highly detailed, 3D picture of your mouth’s interior structures. A vital part of the dental implant planning process, cone beam scanning requires you to stand or sit while a large device rotates around your head. When it’s first turned on, the cone beam machine makes loud whirring noises that some patients may find disconcerting.
  • Ultrasonic scaler. This motorized hand piece uses high frequency sound vibrations to remove calcified tartar from along the gum line, between the teeth, and from hard-to-reach spaces at the back of the dental arch. An essential tool in the dental hygienist’s toolkit, ultrasonic scalers make a high-pitched noise that can reach 85 decibels. However, most hygienists position their scalers so that patient exposure to the noise is minimized.
  • Dental Vacuums. Dental vacuums are used as adjuncts in a wide range of dental procedures, from routine cleanings to surgical wisdom teeth removal. Anytime water is flushed into the mouth to clear away debris, the dental vacuum suctions away the water to prevent the patient from choking or swallowing. The motorized body of the vacuum makes a noise much like a household vacuum, while the suctioning hand piece makes a loud, wet sucking sound. Again, the proximity of these sounds can upset some patients.

How to Stay Relaxed

If you find the sounds and smells of the dental office upsetting, talk to your dentist about what sedation dentistry services he offers. Nitrous oxide, which is inhaled through a soft nasal mask, provides a low level of relaxation that can set most patients at ease. For patients with moderate to severe dental anxiety or who will be undergoing complex treatment, oral sedation (pill sedation) may be a better option. You can also bring headphones and a mobile device programmed with your favorite music or even a movie to block out unpleasant sounds during your appointment.

About Shawn Hofkes, DDS

With advanced training in oral and maxillofacial surgery, Shawn Hofkes, DDS is qualified to provide advanced dental services from our state-of-the-art dentist office in Cerritos, CA. To schedule your appointment or consultation with Dr. Hofkes, contact us today. We proudly serve patients of all ages from Cerritos, Lakewood, Long Beach, Buena Park, and all surrounding communities.