Recent Advances in Dentistry: The Digital Age
Digital dentistry is an ever-changing, fast paced phenomenon which is taking the dental community by storm. Digital Dentistry is making patient visits more efficient, making their prostheses fit better, reducing costs for practice owners, improving the efficiency of dental labs and so much more. The digital age of dentistry is just getting started and has already brought lots of beneficial products and services designed to benefit dentists and patients simultaneously. This publication will focus on various innovative, cutting-edge products and services relating to dentistry alongside the benefits (and potentially the drawbacks).
The first point of call regarding digital dentistry is the invention of the intraoral scanner. This is a device that can scan the positioning of teeth in a patient’s mouth which can then be fed to a computer and finally to a CAD/CAM machine. This can create digital impressions said to be more accurate than the traditional cast or model impressions. This is particularly fascinating as according to 3shape (a digital dentistry centred company), tools like the intraoral scanner can provide, “a treatment experience,” “get more open options,” and “grow your practice.” Dentists seem to be finding that by using digital technology they can visually show their patients’ any complications or issues. This improves the consent process for patients and also allows for better understanding from patient of their treatment plans. Consequently, this will improve patient outcomes and productivity from dentists.
Moreover, I believe that products where images can be presented to the patients (like intraoral scanners) will more accurately convey to patients what a treatment entails. If we compare this to the past, a dentist would offer the patient a treatment, typically without a visual aid, he would then go on to explain what he would do and why he was doing it leading up to an end result. A patient who ends up paying for a treatment without a visual aid is far more likely to finish with results that they may not have anticipated. By providing a visual aid, a dentist can more accurately convey what he will do, how he will do it and what the end result will look like. This should hopefully reduce the number of overambitious patients which could potentially reduce litigation against dentists.
As mentioned in the introduction, digital dentistry doesn’t just consist of new products, but also services relating to the internet. A recent website that caught my attention was www.dentalcircle.com. This website, started by dentist and entrepreneur Amit Patel, encapsulates all the greatest dentists across the UK, highlighting their talents and skills. Not only does this provide dentists options regarding employment and referrals, it also provides dentists with the ability to ‘showcase,’ their work to the network allowing dentists to reflect and advance on their work. Dental Circle also host networking events, clinical courses and even parties to bring the dental community and circle together creating a tightknit close and professional environment.
Another aspect of digital dentistry that is highly fascinating is computer aided surgery techniques, particularly in relation to implant dentistry. Computer accuracy can be used to achieve extremely precise and accurate implant maneuvering and positioning. The main advantage of this is that key structures and items within the face are significantly less likely to be damaged for example the mandibular nerve or the maxillary sinus. This should ensure that implant procedures are more predictable and reliable meaning that they will last patients longer and leave them with fewer appointments. This is more appealing for all patients and especially those who are anxious and afraid of dentists.
The final aspect of digital dentistry that I feel needs mentioning in this essay is the actual process of implementing technology into practice. One major pitfall is the price. As with all aspects of new technology, new innovations are bound to cost a significant amount of money and the real question therefore is whether the new technology will be economically viable and whether it will yield enough profit to stay sustainable. Moreover, technology requires time, effort and dedication to understand and utilize efficiently which is where I feel many practice owners will be hesitant, if practice owners do not operate their purchases properly, it is likely that the new process promised by a manufacturer may in fact be much slower than the previous systems in place. Finally, while digital dentistry has its major benefits in westernized MEDC countries where computer access is omnipresent, unfortunately such technology probably won’t exist for many years to come in the likes of LEDC countries.
In conclusion, digital dentistry presents an exciting time for the young dentist, practice owners and even prospective students, if utilized correctly. It can bring visual benefits for patients and colleagues, it can link dentists all over the country and potentially the world together, and it can boost profitability, trust and most importantly the quality of service provided to the patient. Dentistry isn’t about treating disease but about managing patients. This is where I feel digital dentistry’s main advantage is, in enhancing the patient experience which is arguably the most important and most difficult aspect of dentistry.
Year 12, King Edward’s School Birmingham