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.