How Digital Dentistry is Making Your Dental Care Better, Safer and More Comfortable

It would seem that almost everything these days is going digital- and dentistry is no exception. Advances in digital technologies have provided dentists a new arsenal of tools to fight tooth decay and provide their patients Hollywood worthy smiles.

Of course, you may be asking yourself what exactly is digital dentistry?And how does it benefit me?

What is digital dentistry?
Digital dentistry, in essence, refers to any dental technology or device that incorporates digital or computer-controlled components. These digital technologies range in complexity from simple devices such as VELscopes used in oral cancer screenings, to state of the art CAD/CAM (computer aided design/computer aided manufacturing) machines used to create crowns, veneers, dentures and implants. In some cases, these digital dental technologies may not even be recognized as digital devices by most patients, such as computer-controlled delivery of nitrous oxide or computerized dental record management.

What are some of the advantages of digital dentistry for patients?
Digital dentistry technology provides patients a number of advantages over traditional dentistry. Some of these benefits include:
• Earlier detection of tooth decay and oral cancer
• Reduced exposure to x-ray radiation
• Improved accuracy and efficiencyof dental diagnosis and treatment
• Shorter, fewer and less costly dental visits
• More comfortable, less intrusive dental procedures
• Significantly decreased productiontime for dental prosthetics such as crowns, dentures and dental implants
• Improved fit and color matching of dental prosthetics and veneers.
• More efficient management of patient dental records
• More comprehensive patient education

What are a few examples of digital dentistry technologies I might find in my dentist’s office?
The introduction of digital technology into dentistry has not only aided dentists in detecting and treating dental health issues in patients, it has also helped make dental visits more comfortable for patients. What are some of the digital technologies you might find in use at your dentist’s office and how are they making your dental visits better? Here are a few examples:

• DigitalRadiography(X-Rays) – Traditional x-rays make use of x-ray radiation in order to expose x-ray sensitive film to create an image. The process of capturing these images and developing the film is not only time consuming, but also expensive and exposed patients to large doses of x-ray radiation. Today, digital x-rays use much of the same technology as most digital cameras, exposing an x-ray sensitive chip to produce an image instead of film. Not only are the digital x-rays available instantly, but they are also much higher resolution images than traditional x-rays. Because the images are digital, dentists are also able to manipulate the images to make them easier to read. Most importantly, digital x-rays require only a fraction of the x-ray radiation of traditional x-rays, making them much safer for patients.

• Laser Cavity Detection -In the past, tooth decay was only detectible once it had progressed to the point that it had permeated the toothand causedvisible damage known as a cavity. Tooth decay is practically undetectable until it has grown to visiblyalmost one-third the width of the tooth. Patients often suffered damage to teeth and dental structures that could have been avoided if the decay had been detectable earlier. With the development of digital laser cavity detectors, dentists are now able to identify and treat tooth decay much earlier, preventing this unnecessary damage. For patients this means less pain, faster treatments and better overall dental health.

• CAD/CAM – Before the advent of computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing,patients requiring dental prosthetics such as dentures, bridges and crowns could wait weeks or months to have them made. These prosthetics were typically crafted by hand and often didn’t fit properly, didn’t match the color of the surrounding teeth or appeared artificial. Today dentists employ state of the art digital computer technology to measure and image each patients mouth in order to produce prosthetics that look, feel and function as close to the original teeth as possible. In addition, many dental providerscan produce most prosthetics in their offices in a day or less.

• Intra-Oral Cameras – Traditionally dentists relied on mirrors and medical replicas of the mouth to inform and educate patients about their oral health and any issues they may have had. Often these medical models were expensive and didn’t always allow the dentist to accurately convey information to the patient. Mirrors also provided only limited information to patients, as dentists were unable to show most of the areas inside the mouth. Today, most dentists use tiny digital video cameras, known as intra-oral cameras, to display close-up images of a patient’s teeth on a monitor, allowing dentists to better inform and educate the patients on their individual oral issues and treatment options.

The Future of Digital Dentistry
As digital technologies continue to advance, dentists will continue to find new and more effective ways to treat patients. One technology that is already making headlines and is certain to revolutionize dentistry is 3D printing. In the near future dentists may be able to print crowns, dentures and dental implants in minutes and for a fraction of the cost they can currently.Whatever the future holds, digital technology promises to make dental visits more efficient, comfortable and affordable for patients.

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