Advancements in digital dentistry go beyond just revolutionizing an information management system. Newer digital technologies are making visits with dental professionals more efficient, more comfortable, safer, and more reliable. But first, what IS digital dentistry? Simply put, digital dentistry refers to any digital or computer-based technology that dental professionals may use to help examine, diagnose, and treat the health of your mouth.
Here is a look at the types of digital dentistry that may exist in dental offices today:
More and more frequently, small cameras are replacing the tiny, round hand-held mirrors that you may be accustomed to seeing dental professionals use to examine the inside of your mouth. These cameras offer a major benefit that hand-held instruments cannot offer, which is magnification. The use of this type of digital dentistry functions to enlarge your tooth on a flat screen to help dental professionals better identify any potential issues with your oral health. Another advantage is that your dentist can then share what they see with you and openly discuss any concerns while looking at an image with you in order to help you better understand and improve upon your oral hygiene. These images can also be shared with lab technicians to match crowns and bridges to the shade of your actual teeth.
Remember when you would go to the dentist, have to sit uncomfortably for what seemed like an eternity while your dentist placed several pieces of film into your mouth to take x-rays? While this method has been used successfully for decades, the more traditional x-ray process is time-consuming and expensive. Additionally, it required that prints be filed away in cabinets and physically delivered to other offices and specialists if necessary. Enter, digital dentistry! The best part? Digital radiography is faster AND the images are immediately available for viewing on a computer screen. Moreover, files are stored on a server or in the cloud, and can be easily shared with specialists. To those with health questions and concerns about X-rays, the American Dental Association has confirmed that there is less exposure to radiation with digital radiology than with the use of x-ray film.
Digitally Guided Implant Surgery
While still new and finding its way into digital dentistry, digitally guided implant surgery aims to help dental professionals identify the most precise and effective way to place an implant in your specific jawbone structure using an intraoral scan. According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, 3 million Americans have dental implants and this number is increasing every year.
Intraoral Scanning and CAD
In the same vein as the memories of traditional x-rays, remember when you’d visit your dentist and a dental professional would insert a “gooey” substance (i.e. impression material) into a tray, place it in your mouth in a specific position, and ask you to bite down until it hardened? This was used to form and create a mold that would then be sent to a lab where a dental technician would create a specified device designed to repair, replace or better align your teeth. This arduous process is no longer necessary thanks to the evolution of intraoral scanning and CAD-CAM technology. CAD-CAM stands for ‘computer-aided design’ and ‘computer-aided manufacturing’. Intraoral scanners make a 3D digital image of your mouth that enables dental technicians to design a desired prosthesis (crowns, veneers, onlays, inlays, bridges, implant-supported restorations, or dentures). The prosthesis is then either milled out of a solid block of material or 3D-printed.
CEREC® (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics)
At HDG, we use a digital dentistry process called CEREC® (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics), which allows us to fabricate crowns, inlays, onlays and some veneers without having to send cases to a dental laboratory. Through CAD-CAM technology right in our office, we can often produce & insert the restoration in the same day. Unlike a traditional crown procedure, CEREC® requires only one appointment. CEREC® crowns are made from ceramic and, similar to a traditional crown appointment, we’ll still take x-rays to evaluate your unique situation and determine if this process is right for you.
These are just a few of the digital dentistry advancements that have come into prominence in recent years. Innovations in the world of dentistry are continuing to grow, and allowing dental professionals to perform even higher quality care. Have questions about the ways that we incorporate digital dentistry into our practice? Just ask!