Many of the dental techniques and procedures used to care for patients’ teeth have remained unchanged for decades. Tartar and plaque still need removing, and cavities need filling. However, having someone else rooting around in your mouth, scraping and drilling away is unpleasant. The discomfort associated with dental care keeps many people from going to the dentist at all. Fortunately, recent technological advances in dental treatment can make visits easier for the dentist and more comfortable for the patient.
Have you ever left the dentist rubbing your sore jaw muscles? Keeping your mouth wide open can be a workout. Intraoral cameras, so named for their ability to be used within the mouth, can make oral examinations more comfortable. Mounted on a wand the size of a dental mirror and equipped with their own LED lighting, these cameras can see into all of the nooks and crannies of the patient’s mouth. They can even take pictures.
These images can be easily viewed or enlarged on a nearby computer monitor. Pictures are not only helpful to the dentist, but they can lead to better treatment acceptance by patients. Nervous patients often shy away from treatments that sound expensive or painful. However, if they can see the problem themselves, they may reconsider their initial decision. The pictures can also be stored in the patient’s record to document their case and treatments.
Smart devices are showing up all around us. Our televisions are smart, our lights are smart, our smoke detectors are smart, and now our toothbrushes can be too.
Even the best-intentioned tooth brusher has weaknesses. Most of us have spots in our mouths that we don’t brush as well. The spots often show up in hard-to-reach corners of the mouth and can be linked to whether you are right or left-handed. Right-handed people brush better on the right side of their mouth. The opposite is true of left-handed brushers. You could likely overcome this deficiency by focusing your brushing on these harder to reach spots.
Many sonic brushes on the market are equipped with two-minute timers that beep every 30 seconds to tell you when it is time to switch to a different quadrant of your mouth. These quadrant timers remind you to give the same attention to all areas of your mouth. However, they are only beneficial if the person brushing is paying attention.
Smart toothbrushes take brushing one step further. The brush syncs up to an app on your smartphone that helps track not only how long you brush but also where you brush. The handle of a smart brush contains a sensor that can determine the brush head’s position while you are brushing. Using this information, the app keeps track of which tooth surfaces have been brushed. Of course, relying on a smart app to tell you where you have brushed requires that you keep your phone by the sink while you are brushing.
While a smart toothbrush may be an unnecessary splurge for some people, others may find it to be a critical boost to their oral car regimen. Children, in particular, may find that a smart brush makes oral hygiene enjoyable enough that they’ll actually do it regularly! Some brushing apps offer incentives for brushing often and well—yet another “bell and whistle” to keep kids on track with consistent dental care.
Virtual and Augmented Reality
For years, medical doctors have been exploring applications for virtual reality in surgery and other medical fields. With the aid of scans and computer technology, they have been able to recreate the three-dimensional surgical environment in which a surgeon can practice performing delicate procedures. This same practice is being developed for dental procedures as well.
Dentists can create a three-dimensional model of the patient’s mouth from a compilation of pictures and radiology scans. This virtual environment can then be used to practice delicate oral operations. It can also serve as a reference for the oral surgeon during a procedure. While the full application of this technology is still in its infancy, it is showing promise.
I think it is safe to say that nobody likes to go to the dentist to have a tooth filled. Between the shots and the drill, it is not usually a pleasant experience. Proponents of laser dentistry are trying to change all of that. Laser dentistry enables dentists to perform the same procedures in less time with less need for anesthesia and numbing medications.
Lasers also have some inherent benefits. Because lasers promote clotting in soft tissues, there is usually less bleeding and less damage to surrounding tissues. There is also a lower incidence of bacterial infection after a laser procedure since lasers naturally kill bacteria.
The American Dental Association (ADA) has not given its stamp of approval to laser procedures yet. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved lasers for use in several different dental procedures. The procedures include cavity detection, frenectomies, treating tooth sensitivity, and reshaping gum tissue.
Getting a new set of dentures can require several office visits. It’s not unusual for the process to take about a month. Fortunately, new computer technology is changing that. The process still begins the same; the dentist will need to take a mold of the patient’s mouth. However, instead of sending the mold off to a lab for processing, the mold is scanned into a computer. With computer-aided design and manufacturing, the dentures can be designed and fine-tuned on the computer.
The dentist and patient can explore tooth colors and shapes to settle on an appearance that will work well for the patient. Once the dentist approves the design, the lab can create the dentures from the 3D computer model in less than a week.
This new method is faster for the patient and significantly reduces the time spent in the office for both the patient and the dentist. It also reduces the amount of equipment that the dentist needs to own, opening up space for other supplies and procedures.
Proper and regular dental care is critical to our overall well-being. Innovations that make dental hygiene more comfortable have the potential to prevent and slow disease progression for many people. Our family dentists in Davis County strive to incorporate the latest technology to make every patient’s experience as comfortable as possible. We don’t want the fear of going to the dentist to stand in the way of having a beautiful, healthy smile.