Cutting edge research and high-tech gadgetry will dramatically change the way dental care is delivered in the next century, say dental researchers.
"Dental offices already are becoming the scene of many new technologies that permit more complex and improved dental treatments," says Trucia Drummond, D.D.S., a general dentist. "Dentists love new gadgets -- anything that makes treatment easier for our patients."
Dr. Drummond says intra-oral cameras are a classic example how technology can improve dental care. "A small wand with a miniature video camera is inserted into the patient's mouth, where it transmits a signal to a television monitor next to the dental chair," she says. "The dentist can use the image to explain a condition or procedure to the patient, or store it on a videocassette to track a particular condition over time."
Many dentists have this equipment in their offices now, says Dr. Drummond. He lists some other advances that are on their way.
Lasers: Already used for some soft tissue applications such as removing lesions, and for tooth whitening purposes, many dentists feel they will used to zap tooth decay, precluding the need for dental restorations or fillings.
Digital radiography: This technology uses a tiny intra-oral sensor that replaces conventional X-ray film, sending images by wireless methods directly to a computer screen. They can be viewed immediately or stored on a hard drive. This technology greatly reduces patient exposure to radiation.
Kinetic cavity preparation: Also called "air-abrasive technology," this procedure occurs when tiny aluminum particles are carried by a stream of air, spraying away decay without the sound of the drill, vibrations or local anesthetic.
Electronic dental anesthesia: By attaching electrodes inside the mouth, the dentist can use electric pulses to alleviate nerve sensation during common restorative procedures.
Bonding and adhesives: These materials allow tooth and veneers, for example, a better fit, resulting in minimal drilling, greater strength, tighter seals, and more natural color blending with the tooth.
Dental implants: They have been used for 30 years, but now there are better ways of fastening dentures or a single tooth that may have been knocked out in an accident. Some implants stimulate bone to attach to the implant post, resulting in a stronger hold.
Computer charting: Manual charting will give way to computerization. Thanks to dental software packages, microphone headsets, electronic probes and light pens, dentists and hygienists are not hampered by paper or pencils during the dental examination.
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