Yes, believe it or not, there is a Dental Drill Appreciation Day. It's on January 26th. Now, you might be wondering who, other than dentists, would appreciate a dental drill. But honestly, if you've ever had dental work done, you should appreciate the modern dental drill which makes it possible to perform today's dental procedures quickly and efficiently than drills of the past.
The earliest types of dental drills are believed to have been "bow drills" used in approximately 7,000 B.C. The earliest mechanical drills ran at about 15 rpm. It wasn't until 1864 that a British dentist named George Fellows Harrington developed a clockwork dental drill named "Erado". Erado was faster than previous drills, but also noisier.
In 1868, George F. Green invented a pneumatic drill with pedal-operated bellows. Then, in 1871, James B. Morrison developed a pedal -powered bur drill. In 1875, George F. Green developed the first battery operated dental drill in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
By 1914, that 15 rpm had increased to about 3,000 rpm, still a far cry from today's dental drills that run at over 180,000 rpm! The 1950s and 1960s saw the development of the air turbine drill, the precursor to today's dental drills which are an air turbine/air rotor type first developed by John Patrick Walsh in New Zealand and developed in the United States by Dr. John Borden. today's drills can go up to 800,000 rpm but it's more common to use a 400,000 rpm for fine dental work along with a slow speed motor that runs about 40,000 rpm for applications that need more torque than the higher speed handpieces can deliver.
As you can imagine, at those higher speeds, heat from friction can build up quite quickly, so a water stream was added to cool the bur and the tooth so that your dental pulp is less likely to be harmed. Some models also now include a built in light source to better allow dentists to see the area in which they're working.
The most common complaint we hear about the high speed is the sound and about the low speed is the vibration. New technologies continue to be developed.
Dental lasers can be used for some procedures. We have found them to be slower at removing tooth structure than conventional dental drills but in some cases they can be used without the need for numbing. They are more effective for soft tissue procedures involving your gums.
Air abrasion is another technology that's being looked into for future use in more dental procedures, and ozone is another new technique that's being investigated.