The dental industry has come a long way since it was first practiced thousands of years ago. From the rudimentary dental fillings made of beeswax 6,500 years ago to the beginning of modern dentistry in the 1600s, the field has constantly evolved with technology. Everything has become safer, faster, and more precise, with more and more products that help address dental health problems in the most efficient way possible.
Even now, dental scientists and practitioners continue to discover more ways to apply the latest technologies into the practice, in order to provide the best dental care. Here are only a few of the most valuable technological advancements in the field of dentistry today.
Motorized Dental Tools
Motorized tools are among the first technological innovations for dentistry. The first electric dental drill was patented in 1875 by George F. Green, an American dentist, a revolutionary development after he came up with a pneumatic drill in 1868. By 1914, electric dental drills reached speeds of up to 3,000 rpm.
Most high-speed electric dental drills nowadays operate at 400,000 rpm, although some iterations can reach speeds of up to 800,000 rpm. Low-speed dental drills, on the other hand, operate at a standard of 80,000 rpm. These instruments are all powered by motors like miniature brushless DC electric motors, which provides high torque, efficiency, and precision. Different attachments like burrs and brushes can be used, depending on the operation being performed.
Electric dental drills, more formally known as electric dental handpieces, are usually preferred over air-driven ones, as the former are quieter and more efficient, and maintains constant speeds all throughout the operation.
Digital X-rays have several advantages over traditional X-rays, chief of which is the smaller amount of radiation it emits. In fact, the most recent models contain up to 90% less radiation. Another benefit of digital X-rays is speed—you don’t need to have an X-ray film processed before seeing the output, because the image appears on the computer screen almost immediately.
And precisely because of their digital nature, the images from a digital X-ray can be magnified. This helps dentists better assess a patient’s situation, recommend measures for better oral care, and determine the required operations should the need arise.
An intraoral digital camera is a valuable addition to a dentist’s cadre of tools, as this can help take high-resolution photos of hard-to-reach, hard-to-see places within a patient’s mouth—the modern, high-technology alternative of a dental mirror. Various information can be gathered from the resulting pictures, and can help dentists make more accurate diagnoses and offer the most ideal treatments.
Much like digital cameras, a modern intraoral camera also offers USB connections, LED lighting, and accompanying software to better capture, analyze, manage, and store the pictures. In fact, there are companies that offer online storage solutions so that both dentist and patient can view the dental image and respective recommendations anytime, anywhere.
There are two major ways that a 3D printing improves the dentistry practice. One is the fast and accurate creation of lifelike models for education—both of students and of patients—and workflow optimization. A fully digitized process also removes or reduces the need for the storage because there are no need for molds and the models will only be produced when needed.
The second is the manufacturing of dental devices and implements such as braces, crowns, aligners and retainers, dentures, bite splints, and more for a fraction of the time and cost. 3D printing also allows for more customized solutions to better match a patient’s mouth and dental structure, which can be difficult to achieve with prefabricated products. The increase in production capacity and speed also ensures that more patients can receive proper dental care on time.
Laser technology is used in dentistry to eliminate discomfort in procedures like filling cavities, getting rid of tumors, and whitening. Another benefit of laser dentistry, apart from its quick and painless results, is that it can eliminate bacteria during the procedure, which helps patients avoid infections and other complications.
Soft tissue lasers, as the name implies, are used on operations on soft tissue like the gums, while hard tissue lasers are used for the teeth, like the removal of dental caries without damaging healthy enamel and dentin.
The main barrier that prevents the more widespread use of lasers in dentistry is the cost. Most dental laser devices are priced from $4,000 to upwards of $130,000, compared to dental drills that cost between $200 and $500.