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Digital Dentistry: Overview of Digital Dental Technologies

The array of digital equipment available to cosmetic dentists, general dentists and implant dentists, etc., has increased significantly. Such advancements in dental technology enable patients to receive modern solutions to traditional dental problems.

Among the digital technologies available for dentistry is digital radiography, electronic prescriptions, computerized case presentations, CAD/CAM restorations, digitally based surgical guides, imaging for implant placement and digital impressions. Dentists are eager to incorporate proven digital technologies into their practices to provide leading-edge dental treatment that can be performed in a more efficient, effective, comfortable manner.

Digital dental technologies enable consultations with patients and collaborations with other dental specialists to be conducted quicker and with more immediate and detailed information than in years past. What’s more, quality of care improves through enhanced diagnosis and precision restorations.

In-Office Digital Technologies

The digital dental technologies that might be used in the dental office include, but are not limited to, the following:

CAD/CAM: CAD/CAM (computer assisted design, computer assisted manufacture) technology enables dental restorations such as crowns, veneers, inlays and onlays to be fabricated using computerized milling technology. Your dentist may work with in-office CAD/CAM to complete same-day tooth restorations that would otherwise require two or more visits to complete. Alternatively, if your case is more extensive, your dentist may work with a dental laboratory that uses CAD/CAM technology to create your restorations.

Cone Beam CT: This form of computerized tomography provides dentists with a quick 3-D image of a patient’s oral or maxillofacial anatomy. It is the basis for implant surgical guides used by oral surgeons and periodontists when placing dental implants. Such pre-surgical imaging techniques have made implant placement easier and more predictable, which helps ensure greater treatment success.

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 dental decay. This helps preserve the maximum amount of healthy tooth structure.

Digital X-rays: Digital radiographs capture dental images through a sensor that processes the image onto a computer screen. Digital X-rays provide greater comfort than traditional X-rays and reduce radiation exposure (four digital radiographs equal one “film” X-ray). Additionally, digital radiographs allow dentists to magnify images for greater diagnostic accuracy, ensuring more timely and appropriate treatments.

Internet: With a variety of appointment scheduling programs available, dentists today are making it easier for patients to make and keep their oral hygiene and treatment appointments via the Internet. Additionally, communication programs make it easy for dentists to securely share information about a patient’s case with their laboratories and specialists to ensure proper care and eliminate unnecessary patient office visits. Real-time computer consultations also are possible while patients are in the chair, so any esthetic or functional issues can be discussed and resolved.

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

Dental Lasers: For hard tooth structure, soft gum tissue or both, dental lasers simplify procedures that once were complex and sometimes required patients to undergo painful healing periods. Causing less bleeding and trauma to surrounding areas, soft tissue lasers are a precision tool for many gingival procedures – such as recontouring and periodontal therapy – that can be completed in one office visit by general dentists as well as specialists.

Optical Scanners: Optical scanners are used in dentistry to provide a digital map of the teeth, as well as to create a digital impression of the tooth’s anatomy. Digital color maps help ensure accurate color analysis for determining the shade and custom characterizations of cosmetic restorations. Digital impressions offer patients the convenience of not having to suffer through traditional impressions involving unpleasant tasting materials, bulky and cumbersome trays and possible gagging.

TekScan (T-Scan): A computer that uses an ultra-thin electronic sensor to digitally evaluate a patient’s bite relationships.

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 rather than the needle itself. 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.

Digital technologies continue to aid dentists’ efforts to ensure patients receive the best possible treatment under the most comfortable of circumstances. Talk to your dentist about the technologies they use to discover how they may impact your oral health treatments.