Technological improvements help ease dentist chair fears
Some people dread or even avoid dental visits because of old discomforts and fears. However, these folks can now smile, thanks to new technologies that offer comfortable procedures, precision diagnostics, time-saving techniques, and a nothing-to-fear approach to dental care.
One of the most exciting new advances in dentistry is the CAD/CAM 3-D digital scanner, which has paved the way for the one-day crown.
“It used to be if you needed a crown you’d get impressioned with that gooey stuff, send the mold off to a lab, wait two to four weeks for it to come back, and return to the office,” recounts Dr. Daniel Minchik, in Norwalk. “The great news is we now have a one-day procedure. Using the handheld CAD/CAM scanner, we take an exact picture of the tooth, mill the porcelain right in our office for a precise fit, and our patient walks away with a new tooth in the same visit. The whole process takes about two hours or less. This results in fewer steps, less discomfort, a better fit, and a happier patient. The next stage will be scanning a whole mouth to make dentures the same way.”
Dr. James Aris of Wilton Center Family Dentistry in Wilton agrees. “Innovation and research in dental medicine is enhanced every day,” he says. “The merging of computer technology with health care has had a tremendous impact on the practice of dentistry. Digital X-rays are just one example of the benefit to patients, and CAD/CAM technology has revolutionized restorative dentistry.”
Recently, Aris gave a talk titled “Technology and Children’s Dentistry” at the 92nd annual New York Greater Dental Meeting, one of the largest dental congresses in the world, hosting more than 54,000 health care professionals from all 50 U.S. states and 151 countries. Aris and his fellow attendees are passionate about continuing education and keeping up with the newest advances in the field.
“I’m excited to learn about new technologies that are making dental visits less invasive and more comfortable for my patients,” he explains. The cone beam 3-D scanner, for example, helps take the fear out of undergoing oral surgeries by providing exact images of bones, nerves, blood vessels, and sinuses.
“Cone beam technology helps in diagnosing pathology and the exact placement of dental implants,” says Aris. “You can even make a surgical stent from these 3-D images.”
Minchik concurs. “Cone beam imaging of your jaw helps us identify how close the root is to the nerve before doing an extraction. It can also pick up on cysts and other infections. … It’s very exact.”
Cone beam technology is used for implantology, endodontics, periodontics, orthodontics, dental and maxillofacial surgery, and TMJ analysis. The 3-D imaging device produces all required volume sizes for diagnosing the maxillofacial region, from the smallest specialized cases to images of the entire skull.
Another non-invasive tool, called the CariVu wand, can identify tooth decay without all the old scratching and picking that dental checkups used to require. The wand has a light at the end, and once inserted into the patient’s mouth, it sends digital images to a computer screen to reveal decay in a much more exact way than could be done with earlier techniques.
Dr. Jeff Genova of Ridgefield Dental Care in Ridgefield also believes that advances like digital radiography, electric hand pieces, and the CariVu, that allow dentists to detect cavities between the teeth without using X-rays, offer better diagnostics while creating a more positive experience for patients. “Digital radiography provides highly enhanced radiographs and faster pictures that also gives off much less radiation than traditional X-rays,” he says. “A set of ‘bitewing’ radiographs today gives off less radiation than you will get in one day from radon or other natural sources around your home.”
Aris agrees that digital radiography is a dramatic improvement over film-based X-ray machines. “I’ve been using digital X-rays for 20 years,” he says. “It’s one of the most important advances in our profession, reducing radiation exposure by up to 80% while increasing diagnostic capabilities. In addition, digital X-rays are kinder to the environment and the dental team because harsh chemicals are not needed.”
He adds, “The use of magnification with dental loupes and the dental microscope is another technology that enhances precision.”
Genova also incorporates nondigital advances into his practice. “The electric drills are quieter and have less vibration than the older air-driven models” he says. “We also use the DentalVibe, especially with children, which vibrates at a certain frequency on the gingiva to turn off local nerves before giving an injection so the patient feels little to no discomfort.”
Genova also uses swabs to determine the type of bacteria in the mouth in order to identify potentially harmful bacteria. This simple procedure can head off tooth decay and other problems, according to Genova, who states, “If bad flora is identified, medications, rinses, and probiotics can be prescribed as part of the solution. Many people don’t realize that unhealthy bacteria can be transmitted to babies from parents, so it’s a good idea for parents to be vigilant about their own oral health so they don’t pass bad bacteria on to their children.”
Each operatory in office has a ceiling-mounted TV with cable as well as movie selections. And for those who would rather not take a sedation pill before dental treatment, Genova offers laughing gas with a digital monitoring system that releases just the right amount of nitrous oxide so that when patients complete the procedure they can go about their day without experiencing the drowsiness that might follow taking a pill. “Patients can go right back to work after a procedure without feeling loopy,” Genova concludes.
However, you may not want to go anywhere after waking up in his digital massage chair while your favorite TV show is playing. And judging from his friendly office, they probably won’t ask you to leave either.
Dental Associates of Shelton
680 Bridgeport Ave, Shelton, CT 06484
Cosmetic & Reconstructive Dentistry
1275 Post Road, Fairfield
203 255 6878
Donald Miller, DMD
DeJesus Dental Group
4131 Main St, Bridgeport
203 372 1220
Phillip DeJesus, DDS