Digital dentistry revolutionizing patient experience
2/20/2019, 3:52 p.m.
Dentistry is undergoing a revolution as “digital dentistry” moves from concept to reality.
“Digital dentistry allows for a wide variety of advanced techniques to be used to not only make the patient experience better, but it also allows the dentist to utilize quicker, easier and less expensive techniques,” says Dr. Doug Depew, author of “Change Your Smile, Change Your Life: Your Guide to Orthodontic Treatment.” “Dental dentistry advancements will continue to revolutionize many different aspects of the dental profession.”
Digital dentistry incorporates computer-controlled components to carry out dental procedures rather than using mechanical or tools, or plaster tooth models.
More dentists are embracing the technology because it improves efficiency, accuracy and potentially produces more predictable outcomes than non-digital technique.
Not all dentists are embracing the technology due to the significant investment required, a steep learning curve for both doctors and technicians, and a natural resistance to change, especially for those nearing retirement.
The benefits, however, are worth it, says Dr. Depew. He says the following areas are where digital dentistry is making a difference:
Computerized patient rooms. The first area that most dentists start with in digital dentistry is putting computers into each patient room. This allows for a variety of state-of-the-art techniques as well as enhanced patient education.
Digital patient education. This includes technologies already available in other industries, such as voice-activated and/or touch-screen computer and software instruction, live video and rapid recall of photos and educational components.
Digital Radiography. X-rays no longer require film or chemicals. “The main advantages include lower radiation, significant time reduction, ease of storage and organization, and image enhancements for quick and improved viewing,” Dr. Depew says.
Cone Beam CT. This is being quickly adopted by most specialties and becoming the proposed standard for diagnosing of a myriad of conditions; and for planning surgical procedures, including implant placement, third-molar removal, and endodontics. “Future advances and changes will see improved software diagnostic capabilities to automatically take measurements and propose implant positions, and algorithms that automatically look for problems,” says Dr. Depew.
Intra-oral Scanning. Instead of the gooey impressions, the dentist puts a wand in your mouth that makes a three-dimensional reproduction of your teeth. “Scanning teeth and preparations is becoming increasingly easier and faster” says Dr. Depew
Digital Design. Using special CAD/CAM software the doctor and laboratory use the data from the methods mentioned above to design aligners for tooth movement, crowns, and other oral appliances.
3D Printers. Designing software, tooth models and even appliances can be printed instead of using outdated plaster models.
Lasers. Diode lasers allow for advantages in simplifying surgical procedures, and an expanding use in many dental procedures make this area of digital dentistry highly desirable. The current trend is small, portable, cordless, low-cost diode lasers.
“Combining these technologies, our treatments can be faster, more economical, predictable, consistent, and even more accurate,” says Dr. Depew. He believes digital dentistry is already changing the dental profession and that it will lead to even more remarkable technological advances in the future.