It’s no secret that dental technology has improved in leaps and bounds over the past few centuries, dramatically changing the landscape of both our oral health and prosthetic restoration options. We’ve come a long way from trying to replace our own teeth with improvised dentures made out of animal bones and trying to treat an area of decay with a makeshift stone drill and a small dollop of tar. While these archaic techniques once served a purpose, the need for improved restorations is long overdue.
Fortunately, science has risen to the challenge, paving the way for brand-new techniques and devices. While it can sometimes seem as though we’ve finally reached the limitations of what it can do for us, dental researchers and innovators never cease to amaze us with their new technology and methods of treating a wide variety of oral health concerns. Indeed, some of the more incredible discoveries have occurred even in the past decade, opening the doors to a myriad of fresh and exciting techniques and tools for maintaining a healthy smile.
From advanced methods of performing routine diagnostic tests, to custom-fitted restorations crafted through the aid of artificial intelligence (AI) and 3D printing, there’s no shortage of ways dental healthcare providers are transforming the way we care for our teeth. And with these four incredible and highly beneficial inventions now made commonplace and used in dental clinics around the world, having a winning smile no longer has to be an impossible goal reserved for just the noble elites and royalty among us.
As anyone who has had a dental crown can attest, getting this procedure done can be quite a labor-intensive process. Before the dentist can even begin placing it, they first need to examine the affected tooth to make sure it’s a good candidate for a crown. Sometimes a root canal may even be necessary, further delaying the treatment. From there, the dental specialist will file down the tooth to be fitted with the restoration, take an impression of the site, then fit the patient with a temporary crown. Then they have to wait another few weeks for their final fitting.
However, thanks to the introduction of same-day crowns, all of this lengthy waiting can be reduced to just a few hours of patient’s time. Also known as “CEREC” (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics) crowns, dentists now use a specific type of computer-aided design and manufacturing to create a restoration that looks and feels just like a real tooth. Instead of taking weeks to finalize, the entire procedure can be done during a single appointment, a much more convenient and pleasant alternative by far.
LED Tooth Whitening
There are a number of things that can stain a patient’s teeth, including their diet (such as coffee, tea, and soft drinks), hygiene habits, and even their use of tobacco products. While regular brushing and flossing can help reduce the appearance of discoloration, oftentimes stubborn stains can persist, leading to a seemingly-permanent yellow or brownish tinge on a patient’s formerly pearly whites. Harsh chemicals can help combat them, but they can also potentially damage the enamel and lead to sensitivity, in addition to other unpleasant side effects.
LED tooth whitening aims to change all of this. During the appointment, the dentist will apply a particular type of peroxide-based gel to the tooth, which will act as a bleaching agent. Once applied, the dentist will then train a powerful and safe LED light onto the surface of the teeth. Over the next twenty minutes, they will monitor the progress of the whitening action closely until the desired results are achieved. While the patient will notice a striking difference immediately, it’ll continue to improve over the next twenty-four hours, leading to a much brighter and more dazzling set of teeth.
Custom Fit Dentures
Dentures have been around for thousands of years, facilitating the ease and comfort in which a person can bite and chew. Throughout the ages, the materials used in these restorations have gone through an assortment of iterations, and materials such as wood, bone, shell, and even other human teeth have been used in crafting a set of dentures. Despite a steady improvement in these choice materials over the years, though, there has always remained one glaring issue that remained a giveaway as to the authenticity of the set of teeth: their fit.
Even with powerful adhesives securing them into place, dentures can slip and move around in the mouth, leading to inadvertent slurring and lisping and other embarrassing mishaps. They also can look quite fake, too, further compounding the patient’s discomfort. This is where 3D printed dentures stand apart. The FDA-approved technology behind this restoration allows for a superior fit and appearance, resulting in a one-of-a-kind digitally manufactured set of teeth. Even better, they’re completed in a fraction of the time, giving the patient yet another reason to smile.
Extra Durable Restorations
For a patient who has tooth decay, has sustained an injury to a tooth that caused it to chip or break, or perhaps even has an uneven appearance that they’d like to make more harmonious, dental restorations are generally the best answer. These treatments can include inlays or onlays, crowns, fillings, bonding, and even dental bridges. In the past, materials were limited to either mixed metals (such as amalgam, which can be unsightly and even dangerous), composite resin (a fairly affordable but fragile material), and porcelain (which resembles real teeth, but can also easily crack).
However, scientists out of UC Santa Barbara’s Marine Science Institute have developed a material that far surpasses any previously used ones. Its source is quite unexpected, as it comes from none other than the humble saltwater mussel. These bivalves endure some of the harshest conditions known to nature, and the researchers used their makeup as inspiration for the revolutionary technology. Unlike other restoration materials which may fail in just a few years’ time, these are approximately fifty percent stronger, providing the patient with decades of newfound confidence.
For many people, the appearance of their teeth can make or break their self-esteem. It’s been said that one of the first things we notice about people we meet is their smile, and if a person has reservations about sharing it, it can certainly impair their ability to enjoy life to the fullest. The ability to share that smile with ease should be something available to everyone, regardless of who they are and why their teeth may be less than perfect. And thanks to these four new dental technology breakthroughs, that mutual joy is something that everyone can start to experience once more.