As many adults can attest, dental technology has come a long way in recent years. More and more frequently, 3D imaging replaces 2D x-rays, opening the way for countless new treatment options; CAD/CAM technology allows dentists to create dental crowns in-house within hours instead of waiting weeks for an outside lab to do so; specialized cameras help with early detection of everything from tooth decay to plaque to miniscule cracks in teeth; and dental pain is now more manageable than ever! All this progress helps us make your dental visits easier and faster, and your treatment much more effective. Here’s a “then and now” look at some of the issues our modern dental technology helps us solve.
Undetectable Dental Decay
Then: Years ago, if dental caries (decay) developed, patients frequently realized it only after they experienced the discomfort of a cavity or if their dentist noticed it during an exam or on traditional x-rays. Either way, the problem often went undetected until considerable tooth damage had occurred.
Now: We use the CamX Spectra Caries Detection Aid to help us spot cavities and tooth decay in their beginning stages and those that may be hiding between teeth. The software on this device generates color-coded images to indicate the actual depth of cavities and decay. Early detection results in smaller fillings and fewer root canals.
Our intraoral camera also allows us to identify areas of dental plaque and tiny cracks in teeth when these issues are in their earliest stages, so we can address them preventatively.
Post-Operative Pain and Healing
Then: After a dental extraction or an implant procedure performed with traditional dental instruments, patients were typically given instructions on how to eat and drink carefully during the healing process, and how to rinse their mouths to avoid infection—but no technology existed to ease their pain or speed up their healing, which often lasted for days or even weeks.
Now: For some surgical procedures, we can use diode laser technology instead of a scalpel. This helps us to work precisely, and to reduce the risk of infection and of post-operative pain and discomfort.
Additionally, the platelet-rich fibrin (PRF) process allows us to speed up healing and reduce post-operative discomfort after implants and extractions. This procedure is completely holistic and makes use of a patient’s own blood to decrease recovery time by up to 50%. We perform every step of this process in our own office, using the centrifuge in our lab.
Dental Pain Relief Before Treatment
Then: Though the details of different dental issues vary, many of them cause similar types of pain and discomfort, and occasionally patients require pain relief before their real issue can be treated. In the past, options for immediate pain relief were often limited to simple measures such as applying ice or taking over-the-counter pain relievers at home; or receiving numbing agents or sedation before treatment in the office. Depending upon the severity of the issue, these measures were not always effective.
Now: Using cold laser therapy, we can help restore your physical comfort before we perform any other treatment you might require for many issues, including cold sores; head, neck, and shoulder pain resulting from dental issues; hypersensitive teeth; musculoskeletal problems; myofascial pain; periodontal disease; post-extraction wounds; post-scaling trauma; and TMJ disorders. Your comfort is important, and we will do everything we can to help you regain and maintain it.
Long Timeframes for Dental Crowns
Then: Not long ago, getting a dental crown usually meant multiple office visits and wait times measured in weeks. Patients would receive a temporary crown, which often caused discomfort and bite limitations, and came with a risk of falling out. Office visits during this process often took more than an hour at a time.
Now: Our in-office CEREC technology provides us the ability to offer same-day crowns for most cases. We scan, measure, create, and fit your permanent crown perfectly before you leave our office. You get your permanent crown in hours instead of weeks, and the single appointment minimizes your time away from work, family, and your other commitments.
Limitations of Traditional Dental X-Rays
Then: Traditional dental x-rays have always provided dentists a two-dimensional view of the teeth and gums. Due to the difficulty of angling the camera and to the radiation levels involved, these x-rays were typically limited to the area of the mouth. The limited scope and resolution of traditional x-rays also made it difficult for dentists to closely examine the causes of more complex issues such as jaw joint dysfunction and sleep breathing problems, and even to make connections between these problems and correctable dental issues.
Now: The introduction of dental cone beam computer tomography (CBCT) has revolutionized dentistry! Our unit’s radiation level is extremely low, and this gives us the ability to safely scan a patient’s entire head and neck area. In patients with sensitive gag reflexes, the CBCT unit helps with cavity detection by eliminating the need to place films or other instruments in the mouth. The unit produces detailed 3D images of teeth, soft tissues, nerve paths, sinus cavities, and bone; and this supports our comprehensive and precise treatment planning for implant placement, TMJ dysfunction, sleep apnea, and functional orthodontics.
Extractions of Permanent Teeth from Overcrowded Mouths
Then: At one time, young and teenaged patients with insufficient space in their mouths for their erupting permanent teeth usually had no choice but to have healthy permanent teeth extracted to make room for the rest of their erupting teeth. This was a frequent recommendation within traditional orthodontic treatment. While it did allow many young patients the room they needed for their remaining permanent teeth to erupt and to be straightened with traditional braces, for many it also resulted in additional dental issues, including the need for tooth realignment, later in their lives.
Now: For most young patients with overcrowding issues, the introduction of retainer appliances to gently and gradually expand their palates (beginning in early to mid-childhood, while they are growing) has eliminated the need for extraction of healthy permanent teeth later in their lives. When we attend proactively to the dentofacial development of growing children, we can fit them with appliances that work with their growth process to promote their developing to their maximum potential, so that they may retain their full set of permanent teeth and enjoy optimized overall health.