A few days ago, I was chatting with my friends at our local club. The discussion turned to invasion of tech in our lives and one of them turned to me and asked, “Has dentistry turned hi-tech or is it still the old drill and fill saga? “. I gave it a good thought and realised how technology has infiltrated every aspect of dentistry. I have tried to incorporate as much as I could in this short list.

Tooth Filling
The term tooth filling, which involved drilling a hole in a patient’s tooth followed by a packing of a silver mercury mix is now taken over by procedures like pneumatic drills, laser cutting, micro abrasion, magnification, acid etching, bonding and light cured (light sensitive) composites. More recently micro dentistry and minimal invasive dentistry have taken centerstage. What these terms stand for is minimal cutting to preserve sound tooth structure followed by accurate restoration; liquid or flowable fillings which turn rock hard within seconds; pink fillings which turn white on hardening….. and the list goes on.

Lasers have replaced scalpels and blades. A clean bloodless surgery is every dental surgeon’s dream come true, add to that perfect and fast healing with no post-operative pain and it’s a win-win situation. Bleeding from a surgical site would set alarm bells ringing, but today it can be easily controlled in seconds with a dental laser shot.

A needle which does not hurt was on every patient wish list. It has finally come true. We now have digital tech controlled superfine needles which can inject the anaesthetic solution at a controlled rate to make the whole experience virtually pain free.

Digital radiographs have reduced X-ray radiation by almost 70% as compared to conventional films. The images are digitally stored and can be easily viewed on large screens making it extremely easy for the clinician to work with. Newer techniques such as Cone beam CT have made a huge difference to radiography, there is no guesswork involved these days as every tiny bit of information is served on an easy to view platform.

Root Canal Therapy
Root canal therapy was a procedure dreaded by patients and dentists in the past, as the dentist could never be sure if the whole root was cleaned. This was because the dentist could not see where the root ends. The invention of a gadget called the apex locator has changed all that and we can now predict the exact location of the root tip without the use of radiation. This latest device can not only predict the root length but also prevent the dentist from over instrumentation (excessive cleaning).

Crowns or Caps
Crowns or caps are now cut by robotic machines in a matter of minutes. Our dentists use scanners to scan a patient’s mouth in the place of sticky slimy moulds which were previously used.

New research and technology mean that modern dentistry sees more and more gadgets regularly added to the list that improve the way we are able to deliver our service to our patients including contact sensor lights, ultrasonic and piezotronic cleaning units, intraoral cameras, dental microscopes, and so on.

The only fear is that tech might replace the dentist one day!

By Dr Kedar Kulkarni (KK)

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