The Changing World of Digital Dentistry

Like many other global industries, dentistry has benefited from the computerization of many processes, and opened new doors to improved patient care. It is a very exciting time to be a dental professional and a dental patient. Understanding (and keeping up with) the innovative changes happening in dentistry keeps patients informed about their dental care diagnosis, treatment options and overall oral health care.

What Is Digital Dentistry?

Digital dentistry is any dental technology or device that uses digital or computer-based components instead of older mechanical or electrical methods. Computer-aided dentistry streamlines many processes and removes several formerly manual steps that can now be automated.

Examples of Digital Dentistry

In a dentist's office, computer technologies now assist with several kinds of imaging, including radiography and pixelated images. Formerly, if a dental professional wanted images to choose a porcelain or resin shade, they would take the images on film and send them away for processing, then on to the lab for shade choice. Now, images are taken with intraoral cameras and processed immediately into the computer to be sent directly to the lab. According to the Canadian Academy of Dental Health and Community Services, digital radiography allows for higher quality images to be taken with 70 percent less exposure to radiation compared to traditional X-rays.

Digital dentistry has also allowed for the earlier detection of dental diseases, such as earlier cavity identification and oral cancer screening diagnosis, using newly developed tools such as the DIAGNOdent and VELscope. Once found, these diseases can be treated at an earlier stage, giving the patient an improved prognosis and a shorter recovery time.

Exciting Dental Innovations

New tools, such as lasers for surgical procedures and the removal of decay, have allowed for minimally-invasive techniques that remove less tooth structure and oral tissue.

Improvements in cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) machines have allowed for more private dental offices to afford systems that provide opportunities for computer-aided implant dentistry, occlusion evaluation (to check for bite problems), and TMJ analysis. The Radiological Society of North Americaexplains that the ability to see oral structures in 3D with CBCT machines allows for greater treatment success, and for guided placement using an electric and surgical implant handpiece and additional dental software programs.

Finally, using dental CAD/CAM machines and digital 3D printing has advanced the manufacturing and milling of metal, resin, porcelain, and zirconia for dental prosthesis creation, states the International Journal of Dentistry. Patients can receive care faster, and often with fewer dental appointments, using these digital dentistry advancements.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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What To Expect During a DENTAL VISIT

On your first visit, your dentist will take a full health history. On follow-up visits, if your health status has changed, make sure to tell your dentist. Here’s what you can expect during most trips to the dentist.

  • A Thorough Cleaning – a dental hygienist or dentist will scrape along and below the gum line to remove built-up plaque and tartar that can cause gum disease, cavities, bad breath and other problems. Then he or she will polish and floss your teeth.

  • A Full Dental Examination – your dentist will perform a thorough examination of your teeth, gums and mouth, looking for signs of disease or other problems.

  • X-Rays – X-rays can diagnose problems otherwise unnoticed, such as damage to jawbones, impacted teeth, abscesses, cysts or tumors, and decay between the teeth.