The complex devices all around us — from long-range satellite links in our cars and offices to powerful computers in our hand-held gadgets — prove beyond a doubt that we live in a technology-driven world. In the field of dentistry, new technology is constantly changing the way diseases are diagnosed, routine procedures are performed, and illnesses are prevented. Although they may seem unfamiliar at first, new and improved dental technologies offer plenty of real benefits for patients. Here's a look at some of the latest examples, coming soon to (or now appearing at) a dental office near you.
- Cone Beam CT Imaging. What's better than an x-ray of your teeth? An on-screen, movable 3-D representation of your jaws! By taking a series of x-ray “slices” and stitching the images together with a powerful computer program, Cone Beam CT imaging creates a virtual model of your mouth. It can be used to find disease, plan procedures, and visualize internal structures that formerly wouldn't have been visible without surgery. Using images obtained with the 3D scanner, more precise treatment planning can be accomplished, particularly with dental implants. While Cone Beam CT is not quite the same as a medical CT, the dental cone beam can provide images similar to the medical CT, but with far less radiation. The Cone Beam CT can be used for cases such as: Planning for removal of impacted wisdom teeth, accurately placing dental implants, evaluation of the jaws for tumors or other abnormalities, evaluating the sinus cavities, and as an aid in diagnosing temporomandibular joint disorders.
- Dental Implants. Tooth replacement took a giant leap forward with the widespread use of dental implants — today's preferred method of replacing teeth. Dental implants are small titanium posts that replace the root part of your missing tooth. A realistic dental crown is then attached to the implant for a replacement tooth that looks and feels exactly like what nature gave you.
- Digital X-Rays. Diagnostic x-rays have long been invaluable to dentistry. The emergence of digital technology in the past decade, however, has made dental x-rays safer and even more useful. Digital technology cuts radiation exposure to patients by as much as 90% over traditional x-rays. And there are other advantages including the elimination of waiting time for pictures to develop, and sharper images that can be enhanced instantly to show detail.
- 3D printed implant surgical guides. Accurate placement of dental implants is important, particularly when multiple or front teeth are to be replaced. Using the 3D Cone Beam Scan technology, the positions of the implants to be placed are determined virtually in the scan. That information is uploaded to a dental laboratory that will interpret the scan information and then print a surgical guide that accurately reproduces the planned implant positions. The guide is then used during surgery to locate the proper position in the jaw for implant placement.
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