Back in dental school, all the courses, studies, and exams pointed us toward the essential goal of dentistry: quality patient care. Those of us who have been practicing for years can look back at the advances in dentistry and confirm that this profession is experiencing exciting levels of technological growth.
It Takes a Team
Not too long ago, patients went to the dentist mainly for routine cleaning, X-rays and to have the occasional filling. The practice care team consisted of a dentist, several hygienists and specialists, such as an endodontist or periodontist. There was limited connection between the care a dentist provided and treatment for other issues such as diabetes and sleep apnoea.
The landscape today is a different one and a lot has changed. Just as it takes a team to win a soccer match, it takes a group approach by different health care practitioners to provide quality care to patients.
Thanks to the growing array of digital equipment available to general dentists, treatment has been optimised to be more patient-centric. Clear aligners are a great example of patient-centric treatment. The aligners are almost invisible to allow for discrete treatment and are custom made to move teeth into a predetermined position without disrupting the patient’s daily routine.
A few years ago, delivering this level of optimized and customized patient care was not only cost-prohibitive, it was also time intensive. If, for example, a patient needed a tooth restored, we had to take impressions and send them off to labs, leaving the patient in a state of discomfort and even embarrassment as they waited for the prosthesis to be built and seated. Today, 3D printing technology and same-day-dentistry make it possible to place crowns in a single visit, much to the relief and comfort of the patient.
Thanks to advancements in dental technology, patients are able to receive a variety of modern and personalised solutions for common dental procedures. Examples of such technologies include:
CAD / CAM
CAD/CAM to create restorations (sometimes designed to original tooth shape and size) that return faster with less likelihood of requiring modifications to fit. CAD / CAM systems are even being used for full-arch implant planning and printing of splints, ensuring precision during surgery and long-term durable wear. CAD/CAM technology can be brought chairside, reducing procedures that formerly required two or more visits, down to one. This is especially advantageous nowadays when patients just don’t have the time to wait.
Cone Beam CT
Cone Beam CT that rapidly delivers a 3D image of a patient’s oral or maxillofacial anatomy, enabling better placement of dental implants. It also provides an extra level of detail needed for more complex treatments such as difficult root canals.
Introral cameras that produce accurate images of patients’ teeth and the supporting structures, allowing the patient to learn more about treatment planning. This small wand-like device can take pictures of a single tooth or multiple teeth. Even dentists who use digital radiographs to diagnose caries and other conditions can use a good intraoral camera to show patients how to properly take care of their teeth and some can even show what how changes have occurred over time. The images can also be used if claims need to be made to an insurance company.
Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure (LANAP)
LANAP is a protocol where the laser removes bacteria by shining onto the tissue between the teeth and gums. Not only does it leave healthy tissue unharmed, it also helps regenerate the tissues and bone destroyed by gum disease.
CO2 lasers work silently on both hard and soft tissues without the need for anaesthesia. Patients who refrain from dental treatments due to a fear of needles and drill noises will be more comfortable with CO2 lasers and end up scheduling appointments more regularly.
The Wave One makes endodontic work faster and easier on the patient. The rotary handpiece only requires dentists to use two files for root canal work as opposed to several, cutting down the time needed to complete the procedure.
iCHIROPRO is an implant support system that connects to a smart device to deliver pre-programmed operating sequences from leading implant manufacturers. It also integrates patient files to support more customised treatments. Because it maintains data from each procedure in a patient file, dentists can digitally show all details and investigate if the treatment they provided was not successful.
Digital dental technologies enable patient treatments and collaborations with other healthcare practitioners to be conducted more efficiently than ever before. Enhanced diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and precision restorations all improve quality of patient care and make it possible for us to deliver the level of service that dental professionals of the past could only dream of.