Technological advances have become integral to our modern way of life. Along with them have come many exciting advances to the field of dentistry. Not only can patients find a dentist online and use GPS navigation to get to the right office--and of course check email on their smartphones while they wait--but dentists are also adopting next- and best-practice technology to allow them to more accurately and efficiently diagnose, treat, and chart for a comprehensive and positive patient experience.
Digital dentistry is dentistry that utilizes computer-related technology for the maintenance, diagnosis, and care of your teeth and gums.
Here are just a few exciting ways that technology has positively impacted the dental field:
1. CAD/CAM and digital impressions - Architects and engineers may be familiar with CAD/CAM software--computer-aided design and manufacturing programs--but did you know dentists utilize this technology, as well? With these kinds of digital modeling programs, dentists can design and manufacture veneers, crowns, fixed bridges, dentures, and orthodontic devices--all without taking the time to cast a mold of your mouth and manually send it to a lab somewhere. This process can be entirely digitized! CAD/CAM software and digital impressions save patient time and can add a layer of comfort and convenience to the process of reconstructive dentistry or orthodontics.
2. 3D printing - You know that 3D printing has been used to restore limb function to medical patients, but did you know it has also had a major impact on dentistry? With the introduction of 3D printing, prosthetics, orthodontics, and oral restoration are more affordable and accessible than ever before. Patients can have mouth guards digitally created and then 3D printed. Orthodontic devices can be customized and then 3D printed. Even dentures can be 3D printed!
3. Digital radiography — Have you ever had or known someone who had a CT scan? Digital radiography is the same concept as it applies to dentistry. Using digital x-ray technology, the computer takes many images of a patient from different angles, creating a cross-section view of the patient’s mouth. These virtual “slices” allow a dentist to see and understand what’s going on under the surface of the gums or inside the patient’s teeth--all without cutting the patient or performing any type of invasive exploratory surgery.
4. Patient education and records management — Next time you go to the dentist, notice how integrated computer technology is to the administration of the office itself. When you check in, does the office manager use a computer to access your records? Does the hygienist use a computer to track your gum recession? When you reschedule your appointment, does the receptionist tell you to expect an email or text reminding you of your appointment in six months? From charting to scheduling to providing patients access to educational materials, dental offices are increasingly digital on the administrative side, and the patient-care side. Administrative software allows your dentist’s staff to save time and energy to focus on the patient, and allows you access to the latest scholarly articles, treatment options, and educational materials to ensure you receive the best care possible.