Before I begin today’s topic, I must correct a glaring omission from the thank you letter I wrote to April and all of our dental assistants. There is a woman who was our second dental assistant after Liz back in the mid 80’s and describing this person provides a perfect segue into today’s subject. The person to whom I refer is Remi, a very attractive young woman, who would come to the office dressed in popular clothing of the time, which were stretch pants and high heels with the top of her choice. Naturally, Remi was very popular among my male patients as well as being a top-notch dental assistant. I had the pleasure of working with her for a couple of years until her family moved to North Carolina but Remi and I stayed in touch. Then, during the 90’s, we became quite good friends socially. When April began her first maternity leave, Remi stepped in to help us and remained on a part-time basis until she left for a new full-time position. Remi is owed a big thank you for both her friendship and her contributions to our dental practice. Remi, please forgive me for not having included you in the first article!!
But what does Remi have to do with today’s topic? Today, I will express thanks for the amazing progress that we have made in dentistry owing to the development of various technological advancements. At the same time, I’ll have an opportunity to describe how the practice of dentistry has changed in the last thirty years. So, if you can picture Remi wearing stretch pants and high heels, you will realize that what we wear today is far different from the “uniform” of thirty years ago. Better yet, if you can picture what Remi was not wearing at the time, you will understand the first major change that occurred in dentistry in the last thirty years.
What Remi was not wearing back then was gloves, a mask and all the other outer protective garments, which are mandatory today. What changed was the AIDS epidemic had begun and the use of all protective clothing and shields became mandated. After having practiced “wet fingered” dentistry for several years, wearing gloves was initially quite a challenge due to the loss of tactile sensation that resulted. But we all adapted and have since incorporated a multitude of protocols and protective items to protect not only those who work in the dental office but also every patient.
The next major change for dental practices was the use of computers which began in the mid to late 1980’s. I remember buying my first computer, an IBM with a whopping 50 MB of memory! Bear in mind that is megabytes and I’m not referring to RAM. This computer took some getting used to, but relieved us of hours upon hours of paperwork every day as all appointments and transactions had been done by hand up to that time. As you can imagine, the computers kept getting bigger and doing more for us every year. Now, the practice of dentistry and the use of computers are totally integrated and amazing.
Today, the world of dentistry is becoming more and more digital. By now, most of my patients have seen the digital x-rays which we employ. These x-rays are so large and easy to read that patients can easily see what we see with minimum coaching. These x-rays can be manipulated in terms of contrast, size and various other features. Similarly, in the future, impressions will be taken digitally using a small intraoral camera rather than all of that impression gook which many patients are not fond of.
If you’ve been in our office for the last dozen years or so, you’ll note that we also use a digital camera to record photos of your teeth. In addition, we have an intraoral camera which takes close-up images of the teeth. The use of these photographs helps us to better diagnose what is going on in a given patient’s mouth as well as the ability to easily explain conditions and options to patients.
One of my favorite newer pieces of equipment is called the K7. We have been using this system for the past five years or so to help us better diagnose and treat patients who have Temporomandibular Joint Disorders. This piece of equipment allows us to evaluate the jaw muscles, jaw movement and joint sounds. Using this piece of equipment, we can determine in an objective way the best position for an individual patient’s jaw. Since using the K7, we have been able to help many patients who were suffering with a variety of TMD symptoms. If you have any interest in the subject, you may find additional information on the website www.myotronics.com .
Other technological advances which assist us in our day to day treatment of patients include the use of the diode laser, the Wave One root canal system, and the Diagnodent cavity detection device.
The diode laser has a multitude of uses including preparing teeth for impressions, cosmetic re-contouring of the gums, the treatment of periodontal or gum disease and the speed healing of canker sores and fever blisters just to name a few. This is a marvelous piece of equipment which is kind to patients for its healing properties, its gentleness not requiring the need for anesthesia in many cases, as well as its ability to work without creating bleeding.
The Wave One root canal system is an equally wonderful system which helps us to perform root canal therapy for patients in less time than in the past while being more thorough at the same time.
The Diagnodent cavity detection device uses a laser to detect the presence of decay in an extremely accurate manner. We had even seen that it finds decay which is not visible either on x-ray or in the mouth but serves to help patients avoid more extensive treatment due to lack of prompt care.
The descriptions provided above of the technological advances which we have seen the last 30 years is by no means a complete list. Suffice it to say, the practice of dentistry is far more enjoyable, accurate and just plain better than it was in the 80’s.
Thank you to all the pioneers who helped to develop the technology that we use today. It will be fascinating to watch dentistry continue to evolve in the next thirty years!