So What Has Technology Done For You, Lately?
May we take a few moments to discuss how our technologies work to make your dental experience, and your life, better?
Paperless Charting and RecordsNearly twenty years ago (a decade before it was required), we converted our office to paperless patient records, not only to reduce clutter and the possibility of misplacing information, but also to safeguard patient information and data, and to increase ease of retrievability. And your patient chart includes highly privileged personal information, including your medical and dental records, insurance and financial data, and photographs, in addition to your x-rays and everything relating to your dental care.
We take great precautions to make certain that only authorized persons can access this information, while at the same time being able to provide it to you in a timely manner, should you desire it for whatever reason.
Digital Radiographs And PhotographsAt ADANW, 100% of our x-rays are digital, so not only do we get a superior image with far less radiation, but we can also use the computer to enhance the images, altering the densities and contrasts, so that each image provides greater information than was possible with film. And there are zero errors in developing and fixing the images, because, of course, there are no developing and fixing solutions involved.
Digital films not only provide far greater information per exposure, but the exposure to radiation is dramatically reduced from the old films. Now a full mouth series of digital x-rays requires a small fraction of what four conventional films require, and even that was a fraction of what was “back in the good old days”. And yes, we still use lead aprons with thyroid protection for every patient. In a world where any exposure to radiation is more than ideal, it is very very nice to know that we are rapidly approaching the ideal.
We take digital radiographs because it provides information that we cannot detect or properly evaluate during a normal visual clinical examination, including decay between the teeth, bone level and contours, cysts and abcesses deep within the bone, missing or extra teeth, impacted teeth, and bone support for the teeth. We also take a radiograph following bonding or cementation of all restorations, to verify the excellence of the fit and contours.
Additionally, we take digital photographs routinely as part of our evaluation, and prior to all work. These photographs enable us to objectively evaluate things like jaw asymmetry, and subtle alignment problems with teeth. Plus, it allows you to see what we see, to better appreciate what we are doing, and why. And, of course, it provides additional documentation which we will submit on your behalf to your insurance carrier.
And, as mentioned, all this information is immediately entered into your chart, so that we can access those radiographs and pictures instantly, from anywhere in the office.
Cerec: The One Appointment RestorationsWe were one of the very first offices anywhere to incorporate the CEREC 3D system into our office, and we have milled over ten thousand restorations with it. Our patients have loved it from the start, as it enables us to provide same-visit porcelain restorations that are esthetic and durable and extremely natural, in about the same amount of time as a silver-mercury or composite filling.
In addition to saving a return visit to the office by the patient, with all the commuting and time required, the CEREC allows us to mill custom restorations using a small fraction of the total energy required to create such a restoration in a dental lab. And it completely eliminates the need for gooey impressions in the mouth, which is important because the materials for the impressions take tens of thousands of years to biodegrade. We figure that we have kept at least a bathtub of such material out of the waste stream, and we save more every day.
Patients often want to just watch as their restoration is milled, before their very eyes. And the fit is outstanding, with a finer tolerance than is obtainable conventionally by a lab.
iTERO: Digital Imaging And Digital ImpressionsNo one loves the goo that is placed around teeth for lab impressions, nor the gagging, nor the fingers holding a tray motionless for five minutes in your mouth. Most of us have been there, and done that, and have thought “There HAS to be a better way!”
Well, turns out, there is. iTERO is a digital camera that lets us take a series of high-resolution photos of your teeth, then creates from thousands of images a computer model of the teeth and the mouth. We then send this information to our lab, digitally, and they mill an actual model and fabricate your restoration on it.
Because it is digitally-direct, there is zero distortion, and the crowns and bridges and restorations we receive are incredibly well-fitting. And because we see, and analyze, the scans before they are sent, there is never a second appointment to retake the impression.
We use our iTERO for all our crowns and bridges and implant restorations, as well as for our orthodontic treatments through Invisalign.
And, as with the CEREC, there are no materials to fill our landfills, for tens of thousands of years. So not only will you get a better-fitting restoration with less hassle and gagging, but your progeny will thank you for a hundred or more generations to come.
Velscope: Because What We Can See Won’t Hurt YouCancers are always best treated at the earliest possible stage, because the treatments are more effective, and less traumatic, and faster, and the results are more universally positive, and for longer. But the problem has always been that they have could only be diagnosed once they had attained a certain size, which is far later than ideal.
Enter the Velscope, and a whole new realm of oral cancer detection.
Velscope uses a beam of light to illuminate areas deep within the soft tissues of the mouth, showing any abnormalities. And while these abnormalities can be things like a pizza burn or a poke from a toothbrush or spoon, they can also be an early stage of cancer. If the lesion is still there a couple of weeks later, we would refer you to an appropriate office to complete any diagnosis.
The process with the Velscope is no more traumatic than shining a flashlight into your mouth; there is no radiation, no pain, no vibration, no heat. But it can tell us more than any other test, and at a far earlier stage than ever before.
Because while most of what we do at Advanced Dental Arts NW is truly Life-Changing, the Velscope can be truly Life-Saving. And that makes everyone feel better.
Air Abrasion: An Alternative To The DrillWhen all you have is a hammer, they say, everything looks like a nail. And when all you have is a drill, you wind up sometimes removing more than the minimum necessary to fix the problem…
Air abrasion is essentially a “mini-sandblaster”, and like a sandblaster, selectively removes the softer (i.e., decayed) tooth structure first, leaving a surface that is clean and ideal for bonding.
The BIG benefits it has over drilling are:
Because there is no way to direct or limit the abrasive “sand”, we cannot use this for larger restorations, or for those that require extremely smooth edges. However, it is ideal for areas that would normally be restored with composites, such as the abfractures around the neck of the the teeth as they emerge from the gums.
Techscan: The Ultimate Dental ToolFor over a century, dentists have relied pretty much on simple carbon paper to tell when and where teeth touch. As with typewriter (what’s that?) ribbon, it leaves a mark where the pressure is applied. The dentist is left to interpret the size and intensity of the marks, and to adjust the teeth accordingly. Most dentists believe this is extremely accurate.
And most dentists are incorrect. Large studies involving more than 500 experienced dentists demonstrated that carbon paper was accurately interpreted less than 13% of the time. There are very few procedures one would willingly go through if they knew the success rate was only about one in eight.
At Advanced Dental Arts NW, we have been using the TScan for nearly 25 years, to enhance our ability to “balance the bite” so that teeth hit together equally when we restore them. Only recently, however, have we been using it to treat cases by measuring how quickly the back teeth come apart as one chews. And this, in fact, is truly where the technology shines.
Because we can record, in 3/1000ths of a second intervals, which teeth touch and how hard and in what order, as you chew, we can pinpoint with great precision which teeth need to be adjusted, and how much. This is vitally important, because the process is dynamic, and you can understand the process far better with an action movie than you ever could with a still shot.
Plus, the computer tells us the RightSide/LeftSide balance of the bite, and the Front/Back balance, and what surfaces of which teeth are blocking the free chewing motions. It enables us to visualize exactly where the interferences are with the bite, and lets us restore your bite to its optimal. Efficiently, and with minimum recontouring of tooth structure.
So, Why Don’t Other Offices Have These Technologies?Basically, it comes down to the three reasons why everyone doesn’t have everything: knowledge, time, and money.
“You don’t even know what you don’t even know”, and if you have not taken the time to learn what is possible, you can never grow or develop. You have to investigate, and, if you see potential, you have to take that leap of faith. More often than not, it exceeds your expectations.
And you have to dedicate the time to learning how to use the information you get. You have to go to seminars and lots and lots of Advanced Education courses. And you have to have your staff similarly educated, so the team can work efficiently and effectively. If you are unwilling to become an expert, you are wasting your time and energies.
And, of course, technology is not cheap. But, neither must it be expensive. If it enables you to do better work, more efficiently and effectively than the alternatives, and to get predictably better results for the patients, then it is an excellent investment.
You have to believe. And educate yourself. And apply that knowledge.
Bing. Bang. Boom.