By Dr. Steve Marsh
I’m back from the Chicago Dental Society’s Midwinter Meeting, and the focus this year was on newer patient-friendly and dentist-friendly techniques that make dental procedures easier and more accurate.
I have incorporated many of these digital techniques into our practice over the past 10 years or so, and I was pleased to see the improvements in the dental world. Both the continuing education courses and the exhibit hall were filled with some of these user-friendly devices and techniques.
When it comes to taking radiographs (X-rays), all dentists should be using the digital technique. A sensor, rather than film, is placed in the patient’s mouth. The image shows up on a computer screen that the dentist and patient can immediately look at so that a diagnosis can be made and explained.
The screen picture can be enlarged for easier viewing, as well as adjusted for contrast, brightness and definition. Importantly, the radiation decreases significantly from a conventional X-ray; a complete/full series of 18 digital radiographs is like being outside for just a few minutes. Environmentally, there is no film, plastic sleeve, lead foil, or developer and fixer that must be disposed of.
Tooth decay also can be analyzed with two other techniques that we use successfully in our practice. The Caries Vu uses a high-energy light source that can penetrate the tooth, illuminating things like crack or voids in the tooth. It uses no radiation and is a valuable adjunct to X-rays. The Diagnodent uses a laser to help distinguish between stain and decay with both a numeric readout and a variable sound, the dentist and patient can be sure that the diagnosis is correct.
Patients really love the digital impression technique that involves a sophisticated camera and computer rather than the “goop,” which can be uncomfortable. An image of the teeth and tissue is projected on the computer screen, and a 3-D printer prints the models on which crowns, bridges and veneers can be designed and fabricated. It’s so accurate that very few adjustments need to be made when the work is seated in the mouth. This results in both fewer and shorter appointments, not to mention the patient is much more comfortable.
Lastly, the use of digital scheduling is beneficial to all concerned. Computer programs such as Eaglesoft and Solution Reach adjust schedules to the patients’ optimum times, while texting them reminders of their appointments as well as any premedication they might need. Through the click of a button on their smartphones, patients can confirm appointments or send a message to the dental staff — and can even reply to an electronic survey following a visit.
The digital dental revolution has improved patient care, both in accuracy and comfort.
Dr. Steve Marsh serves patients throughout Greater Cleveland. He does all cosmetic dental procedures, including extreme dental makeovers. He can be reached at 440-461-1003 or ClevelandSmiles.com.