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February 15, 2016

Dentistry in America is experiencing a Renaissance! Modern technology is revolutionizing how health care in general, and dentistry is particular, is being delivered.  Technology has improved almost every single aspect of the dental patient experience.  Dental patients now have access to levels of care that were previously unheard-of!

Most dental imaging, especially radiographs, are now digital.  No more biting on a stiff piece of film: now there is a digital sensor which can take a dental x-ray and send it to a computer screen in seconds.  There are also intra-oral cameras which can snap photos of fillings, cracks, or cavities and, again, put it on a computer screen in seconds.  CT-scans are becoming increasingly common.  These 3-dimensional computer-generated x-ray images can diagnose the smallest of dental pathology, such as a vertical crack in a tooth, a failing root canal, or an early abscess.  It can even be used to locate vital nerves and arteries in order to better plan dental implant surgery.

Dental CAD-CAM milling machines are becoming more commonplace as well.  The traditional way of making a crown involved making a mold of the tooth, sending it to a laboratory, and waiting three weeks for the new crown.  Now, a dentist can take a digital image of the tooth, send it down the hallway to a computer-controlled mill, and make a crown out of porcelain right away.  The new crown can be cemented on the tooth the same day the tooth was prepared: no more waiting three weeks for a laboratory.  

White fillings, or “composites”, are now made of nano-sized particles. They have great strength and longevity, and they polish to an amazing shine. They also have a “camellion” effect when it comes to color and shading, meaning that they take on the shade of the surrounding tooth in which they are placed.  Now, cosmetic dentistry and “bonded veneers” blend in more naturally, and they have unparalleled esthetics.

Dental implants, which are miniature fixtures designed to replace missing teeth, have made many advancements as well.  They come in a wide-array of lengths and sizes now, including mini, so that an implant can be found to replace almost any type of missing tooth.  Previously, the implants needed six months to heal in a patient’s jaw; now they need only eight to twelve weeks!

Dental offices have a large variety of digital ammenities to offer patients: text and e-mail confirmation for patient appointments, FaceBook pages, Twitter accounts, websites, web-portals that patients can log into, wi-fi, electronic insurance claim submission, ApplePay, even tablets that patients can use to fill out paperwork.  

Dentists have access to tremendous online learning resources.  There are educational webinars from dental schools and manufacturers, online discussion forums, and YouTube training videos.  Dentists can even have live web-chats with other dental specialists or laboratories in order to review a patient case.  

All of these amazing technological advancements have made the patient experience more pleasant, convenient, and comfortable. It has resulted in a much higher level of dental care: outcomes are better, treatments are less invasive, and the results are more esthetic.   There has never been a better time to be a dental patient or a dental provider!