Increasing dental drill speeds improves efficiency and reduces the risk of viral transmissions

Dentists could increase the number of patients they see and reduce the risk of COVID-19 through using an electric dental drill at higher speeds.

Researchers from the School of Dentistry and the School of Civil Engineering have found using electric dental drills at pre-pandemic cutting speeds (up to 200,000rpm) without air coolant, could improve procedure efficiency and reduce the risk of COVID-19 viral transmission from longer exposures. 

They found that electric drills can be used at a range of speeds without increasing the risk of viral aerosols, and the risk of thermal damage to a tooth due to the absence of air coolant can also be managed clinically based on patient demographics and the parameters of available instruments. These factors could reduce the time patients spend in the dental chair as the drills are more efficient, and it helps to remove some necessary restrictions introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This research follows the team’s 2021 research project that assessed the COVID-19 aerosol risk in dental environments, which found replacing conventional high-speed dental drills with electric ones dramatically decreased the generation of aerosols and created a safer environment for treating patients.

The research, funded by NSK United Kingdom Ltd. and Bien Air (UK) Ltd., is published in the Journal of Dental Research.