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Digital/3D Dentistry

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Recently, in several of my classes, I have been shown the realm of “digital dentistry”, a term which I am simply using to describe digital impressions, CEREC machines, and other computer aided design/processing units. I had of course heard of the many uses of 3D digital imaging and processing, but have only just recently begun to ponder the change that seems to be taking place in the dental profession. They say change is the only constant, and that definitely holds true in dentistry. My professors have a wide array of experience with these types of computer aided dental technologies, and although they each have their own opinions about them, they all agree that these machines are the future of dentistry.

 

As the popularity of digital imaging technology grows, it makes me wonder how the dynamic of the traditional dental practice will change along with it. Although there will always be a need for dental labs, will they decrease in number as an increased number of CAD/CAM units are put into practice? Growing up, many of my aged aunts and uncles were slow to learn how to use computers as they seemed to be more trouble than they were worth. I think their opinions have changed as we have surrounded ourselves with computers and smartphones in every home. I have to assume a similar situation will arise with 3D digital imaging and processing in the classic dental office. It is quite an expense for a practitioner to take on, however, one has to wonder how long it will be before the average patient would be surprised to hear that a dentist does not use this available technology.

 

As a dental student, I am in my infancy as a practitioner and have already had some training on this equipment as a part of my curriculum (which is great), so perhaps I am a little biased when I say that I believe every dentist should make use of this technology. Patients want to go to a dentist that works quickly and does a great job. Most patients would also prefer to make as few trips to the dentist as possible for a given procedure, and most dentists would likewise prefer to have the flexibility to see more patients. Both of these are possible when an office can process and place a crown in one visit as opposed to two or three, while performing a root canal in the mean time. There will always be situations that will require a more traditional approach with alginate impressions and the use of a dental lab, but I believe that will come to be the exception as opposed to the rule.

 

In my humble opinion, this technology is similar in potential to that of the internet in the 1990’s and those who make the effort to learn how to use it sooner rather than later will be at a serious advantage. The use this technology when it is appropriate and indicated will certainly add to any dentist’s ability to provide the best possible treatment for their patients.