Thanks to digital technology, repairing and restoring teeth is quick and easy.
By Dr. Kurt A. Doolin
Photos courtesy Doolin Haddad Advanced Dentistry
Sponsored by Doolin Haddad Advanced Dentistry
Over the last few decades we have seen and experienced amazing changes in nearly all aspects of our lives because of digital technology. The fields of design, engineering, manufacturing, medicine and entertainment (add your personal favorites here) have seen unprecedented evolution using the tools that have been made available to us.
In my career, the changes have come fast and furiously. The old adage of necessity being the Mother of Invention has morphed into what application can I find for this new technology?
In dentistry, we ask if new technologies add benefit for our patients. My answer is a loud yes! The benefits are fantastic! I must also admit that some technologies were met with skepticism and resistance. Like most things that require a change in thought, once understood and proven, these new tools have become an integral part of our daily practice.
Comfort, convenience, safety, accuracy, speed
I’m happy to say that all of these are improved with digital tools. Perhaps the most exciting advance has been in imaging. Digital photography, 3D X-rays and digital surface scanning improve our abilities to diagnose disease and create appropriate treatment plans to meet our patients’ needs and desires. Showing someone what their outcome will be before the procedure occurs provides comfort and goes a long way toward improving understanding and reducing anxiety. Digital smile design is no longer just showing cut-and-paste photos. We use photos and surface scans with software that has digital accuracy to create physical guides and templates that help us prepare and restore teeth for optimal comfort, function, health and esthetics.
The days of making impressions of our patient’s’ teeth are pretty much over. No goop, no gag. Our patients report that one of the biggest roadblocks to getting dental work is the fear of having an impression that runs down their throat. I’m right there with you.
We can now forgo not only the impression, but wearing the temporary crowns for two or three weeks waiting for the permanent one. Today, we can prep the tooth, make an optical scan, digitally design and mill the final restoration in an hour and a half. Convenience, accuracy and comfort.
The boom in orthodontics using optical scanning, digital design and robotic milling of clear aligners is visible everywhere. We already take for granted the huge shift that digital technology has had on this. What a difference from my ortho treatment in the ‘70s.
Our aging baby boomer population has given rise to a huge need for replacing diseased or missing teeth — from a single tooth to a full arch. Digital 3D CT scans allow us to safely design treatment plans based on our patient’s jaw structure and restorative needs. We can see inside and virtually place implants using software and 3D printing to create surgical guides that help us place the implants quickly with unprecedented accuracy and safety. After careful planning with all the gathered digital information, we can often perform these procedures in a single office visit. The important point here is that the digital information we gather gives the experienced dentist the knowledge he needs to prepare the proper staging or combination of procedures that will produce the safest, most predictable outcome for the patient.
We’ve come a long way. Future improvement relies on exceptional continuing education and development. Thank you to all of our teachers.
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