Oral care has come a long way. Hundreds of years ago, people used a “chewing stick” which was no more than a stick or twig with a pointed or frayed tip. Today we use lasers. That is quite a jump! While dental technology may not be the most interesting topic, there is an entire industry focused around improving your dental experience and using technology to do so. In this week’s post we’ll cover what’s new in dentistry. So when you see it for the first time in the office, it’s not a big surprise!
Everyone has had the following experience: you go into the dentist for your biannual cleaning and the hygienist makes a remark about how good your teeth look. You end up feeling good because the anxiety of having a cavity dwindles. When the dentist arrives, the small talk begins while they’re poking around your teeth. The dentist then looks at an x-ray, whispers something to the hygienist, and then looks down at you and says “I hate to tell you, but you have a cavity.” How in the world can a dentist tell that you have a cavity just by poking your teeth? When the dentist pokes you with the “explorer” they are looking for a sticky result. Sticky is bad. When the tooth sticks, it is generally an indication of decay. It is a reactive experiment.
Lasers can help. Some lasers allow the dentist to detect tooth decay in its earliest stages. The primary benefit is that something may look like tooth decay today but not warrant a further procedure. When you return to the dentist in six months, the dentist can then compar
e the previous outputs to the present condition and see if things have remained the same or gotten worse. The laser allows the dentist to make a more informed decision about how to treat a condition. The laser lets the dentist see what can’t be felt by the “explorer.” The laser is painless, powerful, and efficient.
Another technological advancement for patients and dentists is the advent of CAD/CAM technology in the dental office. CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer aided manufacturing) touches so many industries; it was only a matter of time before it made its mark on dentistry. By using sophisticated software, dentists are able to do everything from see a three dimensional model of your mouth on a computer screen to creating dental products right in their office that used to be sent out to a laboratory. The patient benefits are immense. When a dentist can see your mouth with incredible detail, he is able to identify potential problems that could have taken months or years to develop. Your dentist can help you get in front of any pending oral health issues before they even have a chance to develop.
CAD/CAM technology is usually combined with other technologies to shorten time in the dentist chair and reduce the number of visits. For example, dentists use to make a mold of a tooth and send it to a lab. The lab would then “mill” or carve a crown, send it back to the dentist, and you would need to return for another appointment. CAD/CAM technology reduces those steps and allows the dentist to carve a crown while you wait. What used to take 1-2 weeks can now be done in less than two hours.
These two technologies are changing the world of dentistry but they are not alone. Subsequent posts will look at emerging technologies for everything from dental implants to financing. It’s hard to say with a straight face that the world of dental technology is exciting, but take comfort in the fact that very smart people are working hard to help dentists make your dental experience better. The next time you are in our office, look around and ask us to show you some of the new technologies we’re using and don’t be afraid to ask us a question about something you’ve seen, read about, or would like to see in our office.