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Dental Technologies: The Leading Edge of Dental Care

Advancements in dental technology can offer you modern solutions to traditional dental problems. The driving force behind technological advances is a desire to provide you with leading edge dental treatment that can be performed in a more efficient, effective, comfortable manner.

To the casual observer, it may appear that not much has changed in dentistry. Yet dental technologies have been evolving continually, helping to transform the field of dentistry. New technologies are developed with a focus on creating products and developing techniques that can be used by your dentist to help prevent, diagnose and/or treat dental conditions and diseases early and effectively.

There are many dental technologies for your dentist to choose from, with benefits that can provide you with more comfort and ease during treatment.

Some of the more popular technologies include:

Air-Abrasion: Serving as an alternative to a traditional dental drill, an air-abrasion system is primarily used to treat small cavities, preserving healthy tooth structure without the use of a local anesthetic. Air-abrasion allows for the precise removal of decay through a blast of pellets consisting of air and aluminum oxide. The air-abrasion technique can also be used to help repair old tooth restorations by accessing difficult areas such as those between the teeth.

Bone Replacement: There are three types of bone replacement used to assist people suffering from bone loss or those requiring extraction:

  1. Autogenous Man Made Bone Replacement: A freeze dried material that is made in the laboratory.
  2. Cadaver/Animal Bone Replacement: Bone that is preserved, processed and sterilized from a deceased individual or animal source.
  3. Grafting Bone Replacement: Bone taken from another area of the body, such as the iliac crest section of the pelvis.

Platelet-rich growth factors can help induce rapid bone growth and healing. It is used in bone replacement and offers rapid healing properties. Bone replacement performed by clinicians today is more refined than in the past and can be more easily assimilated into the existing bone structure.

CAD/CAM: CAD/CAM (computer assisted design, computer assisted manufacture) technology allows for the fabrication of dental restorations through computerized technology. Your dentist may work with CAD/CAM in the office to complete tooth restorations in one visit that would otherwise require two visits to complete. These procedures can include: inlays, onlays, porcelain veneers, dental crowns and dental bridges.

Caries Detection Solution: Caries detection solution is a liquid red dye that is applied over a tooth to confirm that all tooth decay is removed from an affected area that has been treated. This solution is very similar to plaque disclosing tablets that are used after brushing to highlight any areas you missed or that aren’t thoroughly cleaned.

CAT Scans: A 3-D image CAT scan is used to help implantologists (dentists who provide surgical and restorative implant services) view and work on the jawbone or surrounding bone structure to produce more accurate results. CAT scan technology has become increasingly specialized for dentistry as implants, rather than dentures, have become the standard of care for tooth replacement.

Composite Materials: Composite resin materials are now used in some veneers and other restorations, to fill cavities and to bond onto or rebuild a tooth. Composite resins offer a tooth-like resolution and have grown in popularity over the years. They are continually being improved and refined to better replicate tooth colors, to be easier to apply and to hold their shape without slumping off the tooth. The handling of and the speeds associated with curing composite resins, coupled with the translucent qualities of the newer materials, has helped to produce beautiful natural looking results.

Diagnodent: Diagnodent is a tool used for the early detection of cavities. The advanced technology uses sound pulse and laser to detect caries earlier than traditional methods allowed, so that treatment can commence immediately limiting the amount of decay allowed to occur. This helps preserve the maximum amount of natural healthy tooth structure.

Dental Implants: Dental implant technology continues to improve. Mini-implants can now accommodate small tooth replacements. The bio-integration of the titanium tooth root with human bone is completely predictable. The results are very long lasting. The industry has also focused on reducing treatment time and some implants can be placed immediately after tooth extraction as opposed to waiting six months after extraction. In many instances, dental implants are now the standard of care if a tooth needs to be extracted or if there is a question as to whether a root canal procedure should be done.

Desensitizers: Desensitizers can be used by your dentist or hygienist prior to dental treatment if you have sensitive teeth, so that you are comfortable throughout treatment. Desensitizers can be used alone or in conjunction with other pain and anxiety relief modalities such as a local anesthetic or sedation dentistry.

Digital X-rays: Digital radiographs offer a way to capture dental images through a sensor that processes the image onto a computer screen. Digital X-rays can provide greater comfort than traditional X-rays and certainly reduce exposure to radiation. Four digital radiographs are about equal to one “paper” X-ray.

Electric Hand Pieces: Electric hand pieces can assist in hygiene procedures and can be used with rotary cutting instruments. Electric hand pieces offer a smooth delivery of material which puts less stress on the healthy tooth structure. They are often quieter too.

Internet: Today, dental appointments can be made through a practice website. Dentists can send dental technicians emails with your intra-oral photos in real time so that they can discuss the case in real time with you in the chair. The Internet also serves as an informational tool through which you can receive updates as they relate to the field of dentistry.

Intra-Oral Camera: Intra-oral cameras can produce accurate images of your teeth and the supporting structure. This allows you, your dentist and a dental technician that might be involved in your treatment, to see tooth defects. Intra-oral cameras also help you to learn more about dental hygiene practices, including where to focus on brushing your teeth.

Lasers: Lasers offer reduced discomfort and in some cases, a suture free option for the treatment of benign tumors, cold sores, crown lengthening, decay removal, gummy smile changes, dental fillings, tongue tie and speech impediment improvements, nerve regeneration for damaged nerves and blood vessels and scars. Lasers may also be applied in the treatment of select dental conditions such as sleep apnea, certain cases of TMD and tooth sensitivity. This is a very exciting area of development in dental technologies. Lasers use light energy as their method of operation, resulting in a shortened and almost painless healing period.

Optical Scanners: Optical Scanners provide a digital map of the tooth and create a 3-D replica model of the dental structure. This helps in accurate color analysis for cosmetic restorations made in a dental laboratory such as porcelain veneers, crowns and bridges.

Microscope: The use of microscopes in dentistry has been one of the latest trends to perfect acute vision for dentists. Microscopes offer dentists the ability to see micro-cracks, weakened underlying tooth structure and the proximity of the dental nerves with precise accuracy. Microscopes also offer more accuracy in removing affected tooth structure while preserving healthy tooth structure. The microscope is an improved diagnostic tool as well as a treatment-assist dental tool.

NTI Splint: The NTI splint is an anterior splint used for TMD patients. The NTI and other splints, such as the Kois Deprogrammer have the potential application of helping to treat patients affected by migraine headaches.

Periodontal Antibiotics: There are “site specific” antibiotics that are designed to concentrate the treatment in specific locations. Periodontal antibiotics are applied directly to the diseased site, enhancing the effectiveness of treatment for periodontal disease.

VELscope: VELscope is a brand new FDA-approved oral cancer screening system that uses incandescent light so your dentist can see abnormalities that may not be apparent or visible to the naked eye. VELscope is also used by oral surgeons to help identify diseased tissue around a lesion and determine the appropriate margin for surgical excision.

ViziLite: ViziLite is a recently approved oral lesion identification and marking device. It is a painless screening tool for the detection of small changes in your mouth. Vizilite also identifies, evaluates and monitors oral abnormalities in patients who are at increased risk for oral cancer.

Periometer: The Periometer is an instrumented percussion diagnostic system designed for a range of dental applications, including monitoring implant osseointegration and the formation of cracks in natural teeth. Thus far, the results have been correlated with the presence and location of defects as well as the overall dynamic properties of any oral structure. The use of the Periometer for determining optimum dental therapeutics has also been explored. Current research indicates that routine use of the Periometer in a dental practice can be critically important for avoiding catastrophic failure of both implants and teeth.

The Wand: The Wand is a computerized tool that can deliver anesthesia in a slow and methodic manner. The sensation of pain often associated with an injection is caused as a result of the pressure of the liquid being injected. The slow and gentle delivery associated with The Wand often makes injections painless. The delivery holder is small and easy for the dentist to use.

There are an increasing number of dental technologies from which your dentist can choose. The benefits that you can receive by visiting your dentist today may offer you more comfort and ease than in days past.