With the possible exception of those singing, mounted fish, there is likely no piece of technology quite so universally hated as the dental drill. Well, a new invention may soon make that device obsolete - in many situations, at least. When it comes to the treatment of cavities, the current approach is to treat small ones with fluoride therapy, then wait for anything larger to reach the stage where it needs to be drilled. Now, dental technology company DMG is offering a cavity infiltration system called Icon, that allows dentists to treat no-longer-small cavities before drilling becomes necessary.

The whole procedure takes only 15 minutes. The tooth is first isolated with a rubber dam, and treated with a gel that etches the enamel and opens up the pores of the cavity. Next the tooth is rinsed, dried with ethanol and air, the Icon infiltrant resin is applied, and then light-cured. The application of a second layer of infiltrant is recommended. Since the resin takes on the color of the surrounding enamel, it doesn’t stand out visually. The procedure is said to be painless, and doesn’t involve the removal of healthy tooth structure.

The system was developed in cooperation with Germany’s University of Kiel, and the Charité in Berlin. “Icon represents a new category of dental products,” says Tim Haberstumpf, DMG America Director of Marketing. “It is the first product to bridge the gap between prevention and caries [cavity] restoration.”