Drill-free Dentistry

Do you hate going to the dentist for fear of facing the dreaded drill? If so, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans suffer from dental phobia, and for many, the fear is associated with the sight, sound, and potential pain that accompanies have a tooth drilled in preparation for a filling. But there’s great news that just surfaced in the dental world, and it involves a study out of the University of Sydney. According to a recent article from Science Daily, a study conducted by a team at the university found that tooth decay, the cause of dental caries, can be stopped, reversed, and prevented without the need for drilling.

The study was conducted over a seven year period and published in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. Over that time, the participants who participated in the Caries Management System (CMS), a protocol of preventive oral care, were found to have a 30-50% reduction in the need for fillings. The system was developed by Associated Professor Wendell Evans of the University of Sydney and his team, and covers the assessment of decay risk, the interpretation of dental X-rays, and specific treatment of early decay. The four aspects involved in the “no-drill” CMS treatment include:

  • Application of high concentration fluoride varnish by dentist to the sites of early decay
  • Attention to home tooth brushing skills
  • Restriction of between-meal snacks and beverages containing added sugar
  • Risk-specific monitoring

“It’s unnecessary for patients to have fillings because they’re not required in many cases of dental decay,” Professor Evan said. “This research signals the need for a major shift in the way tooth decay is managed by dentists. Our study shows that a preventative approach has major benefits compared to current practice.”

Historically, tooth decay has been viewed as a rapidly progressive condition that benefits most from early identification, removal, and restoration with a filling material. Often referred to as “drilling and filling,” this study is one of many that suggests the common practice is unnecessary.  Because studies have shown that the time it takes early tooth decay to progress into a cavity is much longer, there is time to stop, and even reverse, the problem, eliminating the need to drill. The one catch is that patients take on a major role in the treatment process. While most patients will welcome a treatment plan that does not require the use of a drill, they assume responsibility in the ultimate success of the process.

“This treatment will need a partnership between dentists and patients to be most successful,” Evans said.

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