How technology is working to improve your dental experience
The other day, I was reading up on some dental technology advancements when a strange visitor stepped through the Timbercrest doors.
He was covered head-to-toe in chrome armor, with a piece of glass allowing us to see his face. He had a white backpack on that let him hover a few inches above the ground.
“It’s okay, we sweep and mop everyday.” I assured him. Ignoring me, he floated to the counter and asked who was in charge.
“I am.” I said, and that’s when he told me he had come from a far away land in a distant time to share with us some of the secrets that dental technology will have in the future. A handheld device started beeping and he looked around quizzically.
“Some of them,” he said, “are already here.”
He also told us the Chicago Bears still haven’t won anything in the year 3000, but we already knew that.
X-Rays: Days of Future Past
After discussing, at length, the history of dentistry, we want to talk about what dentistry is going to look like in the future. The truth is many of the technologies that will become standard practice for dentists of the shiny years ahead are already in play.
For instance, here at Timbercrest, besides computer enhanced digital radiographs, we use a digital cone beam imaging system. What is a digital cone beam imaging system? In the past, dental x-rays have been done with a 2D panoramic machine. This kind of machine gives you that splayed out image of your teeth that looks like the final monster in a horror video game.
Now compare that to the kind of image we get from the digital cone beam imaging system we use (the Orthopantomograph OP300)
Not only is it easier for us to show you exactly where the dental implant is going to go, but the procedure is a lot more comfortable. While the x-rays of the past had to go way back in your mouth and felt like biting down on a weird piece of paper, the digital cone imaging x-rays we can take now are like holding a straw between your teeth.
The technology has proven to be a more comfortable experience and helped people who are severe gaggers by offering a gag-free x-ray x-perience.
Same Day Delivery
Need to have a crown made for a cracked or damaged tooth is never fun. First, you have to worry about whether or not it’s covered by your dental insurance, then you have to plan up to 3 weeks with the temporary crown while your new one is being made somewhere far away.
While this is the paradigm now, the dental industry is on the cutting edge of a big transition. Imagine coming into the office, and having the crown made while you wait! It might seem outside of the realm of dental possibilities, but it is actually a technology that will soon be ubiquitous.
Machines like the CEREC by Sirona mean your dental implant and crown/onlay/inlay/veneer is done in the same appointment. This machine is still pretty new, and as such we are waiting for a few of the bugs to be worked out.
We have assurance from our time traveling friend, however, that your trip to Timbercrest for tooth restoration will soon mean one appointment only.
Have a seat…in the future
Throughout history, dentist’s chairs have held more frightened people than Soldier Field’s bleachers. While their old shape made them look more like medieval torture devices, or later Sweeney Todd overflow props, the newest ones are state of the art devices.
capt: There’s a reason they were dark colors.
New dental chairs, however, offer the kind of luxury you’d expect to find in your home on Super Bowl sunday and not the medical office. For instance, here in our office, our hygiene chairs have built in back massagers.
You read that right, built in back massagers. Not a fan of being in the middle of a tangle of wires? Us either, modern hygiene chairs are going wireless with foot controls. Cleaners like the Cavi-Jet (R) are activated with a wireless foot pedal, providing a more streamlined and comfortable experience in the chair.
Many of these technologies are available at cutting edge dental clinics. What does the distant future hold, though? As long as people have teeth (and we believe, albeit with some bias, that this will always be the case), dentistry will always be needed.
capt: Once SkyNet takes over, maybe not so much
Some of these possibilities are in-line with other medical technologies and discoveries that scientists predict to happen in this century. What can we as both dentists and patients look forward to?
- Regrowing teeth – Restorations are becoming easier and quicker to perform, but there may be a day when you will be able to grow a brand new lab-created, but fully human, tooth to replace one in your mouth. Tissue engineering is likely to make this science fiction a reality.
- Gene targeting to combat tooth decay – Since most tooth decay is caused by a single bacteria (Streptococcus mutans), advances in genetics will make it easier to target these destructive bacteria and kill them and only them. Can you imagine not having to worry about tooth decay?
- Nanotechnology – Nanotechnology is the study and application of creating microscopic robots that network and function to carry out tasks. The practical side of nanotechnology could mean massive strides for dentistry. Deep teeth cleaning, root canal work and other invasive dental procedures that require a smaller size that conventional dental instruments could be performed by your dentist on a computer.
We’re getting there. Every day, more and more technologies become standard that will see the world of dentistry improved and advanced. Many of them are available in your local dentist’s office. Others, are leaps that your children or their children may not even experience in their lifetime.
One thing’s for sure, as long as dentist’s continue to love what they do and stand behind caring for patients, these technologies will mean improved comfort, efficiency and cost. Just like the blinding teeth of the man who showed up at our office to tell us about these things, the future of dentistry is bright!