Like many other industries, dentistry has benefited from the computerization of many processes. Whether that be the patient booking system or the procedures themselves, digitizing elements of the dental industry has opened new doors to improved patient care. At Swedish Dental, we understand that following the innovative changes happening in the dental sector keeps patients informed about their dental care diagnosis, their treatment, and their overall oral health care.
So let’s answer the question, what is digital dentistry? Well, digital dentistry is the process of using any dental technology that uses digital or computer-based components instead of older mechanical or electrical methods. Computer-aided dentistry streamlines many processes and removes several formerly manual steps that can now be automated.
Types of digital dentistry technology
In a dental practice, there are a variety of diagnostic and treatment techniques that require computer-controlled technology.
3D jaw scanning
For example, in our practice, we introduced the method of guided surgery a couple of years ago. The key benefit of this digitized technique is that we can minimize the pain and practically eliminate swelling and bruising after surgery. For this procedure, however, the dentist has to have access to a CBCT-scan. This kind of X-ray is a 3D image of the jaw.
This minimally invasive surgery uses a guide that is only possible after the CBCT has been transferred to a program called Simplant. The dentist plans the treatment and placement of the implants. Surgical guides are ordered for the treatment when the dentist is satisfied with the placement of the implants in the virtual planning.
Digital radiography and CBCT machines
Another digital solution to dental care is digital radiography; this is the use of optical face scanners to produce a map of the teeth. The dentist can then assess these scans while you are in the chair. Not to mention, that digital radiographs now use up to 70% less radiation than traditional X-rays which are far more environmentally friendly.
A CBCT is a cone-beam computerized tomography – which is a rotating X-ray machine that provides a three-dimensional view of the teeth and jaw. This technique identifies oral conditions which are not detectable by using regular X-ray screenings. A CBCT can also determine the exact position of teeth and their roots.
Intra-oral cameras allow practitioners to see accurate images of the oral anatomy. Devices shaped like a wand, the camera magnifies images on a pc screen in real-time. This enables patients to see what the dental practitioner is doing and allows the patient to understand what treatment they need rather than putting blind faith in their dentist. Additionally, this technology provides detailed views of hidden areas of the mouth, which allows for a more accurate diagnosis of such problems as a fractured tooth.
Computer aided technology allows practitioners to design, build and insert dental restorations on the same day, whereas more traditional techniques would take significantly longer.
What are the advantages of digital dentistry?
The digital developments in dental care bring the need for a new set of skills for practitioners. Though the tools used in dentistry are different, the creative part remains – the profession now requires the element of digital skills to achieve dental restoration. As a result, the education of dentistry in schools and programs will have to increase their focus on the use of digital equipment and technologies.
As digital technology increases, using an open digital workflow is coming more and more popular among all healthcare professions – both major cosmetic surgery and dentistry alike. Healthcare professionals can expect an increase in the range of digital techniques and practice available to them. Experts and practitioners continue to conduct further research on the clinical behaviour, applications and biomechanical characterization of new dental machines which will be necessary for dental professionals to increase their knowledge as well as increasing the patient’s experience in the dentist chair.
With the increase of digital techniques, the dental industry is changing for who is carrying out what procedure in the dental hierarchy. Digital equipment such as scanners, computer software, and milling machines have entered the labs, which means that the line between labs and milling centres is starting to blur.
This, of course, allows professionals to build and fit dental restorations to patients directly, without any help from a lab or milling centre. Which ultimately increases competition and puts a higher demand for dental professionals to conduct all operations in-house rather than relying on the time-consuming method of outsourcing their products.
With the goal set on increased efficiency, cost reduction, and higher patient satisfaction, digital dental now focuses on implementing modern IT solutions in their everyday practice. The technology enables for excellent communication between dental practitioners and patients. As digital dentistry is replacing regular dental care, this will allow for better contact between patient and practitioner; for example by uploading and sharing files, providing educational counselling and treatment plan options, and guiding patients through complex procedures using smartphone apps.
Finally, as technology becomes more and more intelligent, the rules and regulations for digital dentistry will also increase. The approval process for producing dental components as well as using the digital equipment will likely become stricter with time. Dental professionals will likely become more highly monitored by the governing bodies.
Digital dental practises are a positive development as dental companies will have to produce validated products and use validated work processes leading to increased patient safety.