5 Remarkable Recent Advancements in Dental Health Technology
There have been amazing new technologies developed in dentistry that make going to the dentist much easier than in the past. Some of these technologies improve on detecting dental disease, while others make the dental experience notably more pleasant.
The intraoral camera is gaining popularity as not only an educational tool for patients, but as an additional way for the dentist to detect dental problems as well. The intraoral camera is a tiny camera on the end of a hand-held tool. As the dentist manipulates the tool in the patient’s mouth, the images from the camera are projected on to a computer screen for the patient to watch.
Consequently, the patient can watch the dental work being done in real time. Though depending upon what work is being done (e.g. The patient may prefer NOT to see tooth extractions in real time), the camera takes the unknown out of the work being done and can make the dental experience less scary and more interesting to the patient.
An additional benefit of the intraoral camera is the camera enables the dentist to see some dental conditions, such as gum disease, which may not be obvious on x-rays.
VelscopeR for Detection of Oral Cancer
The following case study from NIH in November 2009 showcases how this new tool is a significant improvement over previous methods of detecting oral cancer:
TheVelscopeR shines a blue light from a hand-held device on the tissue of the mouth. Normal tissue absorbs the light and re-emits a pale green light. Abnormal tissue appears to be dark or a dark brown color. A 52-year-old male smoker had a 1.5 cm tumor on his tongue. When the VelscopeR was shown on his tongue, a 25 mm. abnormal lesion was identified outside the margins of the tumor. Three-5 mm biopsies were taken from the lesion and surrounding area. The results indicated two distinct types of tumor cell populations with different genetics. These different genetic types indicated that different treatment would likely be needed for each of the cancer types.
OraVerseR for Reducing Numbness Time
OraVerseR, otherwise known as phentolamine mesylate,decreases the time the dental patient’s mouth is numb after dental work is done. How exactly OraVerseR works is unclear, but it is thought to work by speeding up the blood flow to the soft tissue area; however, this drug only works if the original anesthetic contains a vasoconstrictor (chemical that constricts blood vessels). For those dental patients that need to go back to work after dental treatment, for example, the decrease in time of mouth numbness can be very helpful.
However, OraVerseR is not for everyone. This drug is in the class of drugs that can cause tachycardia (rapid heart rate) and arrhythmia (abnormal heart rate) in some individuals. The drug is also not recommended for children under 6 years or who weigh less than 33 pounds. Additionally, OraverseR may not be covered by dental insurance.
For those that hate the dentist’s drill (and who doesn’t), there is an alternative called Waterlase MDTM. Unlike the drill, which generates heat and can induce pain, Waterlase MDTM uses a laser with a high pressure air/water spray. According to BIOLASE, the company that developed it, this new technology is more precise and generates less blood than a scalpel. Even better, a joint study by BIOLASE and Temple University, found that Waterlase MDTM was “capable of reducing the level of infection in root canals and adjacent infected dentin by up to 99.7 percent.”
Digital x-rays are an improvement over the traditional dental x-rays as they can require far less radiation and are able to be developed very quickly. An additional benefit is that the digital x-ray systems come with software that allows the dentist to manipulate the x-rays to see problem areas better than with traditional x-rays. Another advantage is if the patient needs copies of the digital x-rays, the copies can be sent by email--instead of the patient having to carry around a little x-ray that can be lost or damaged.
Dentistry has come a long way since the days of manual tools and chemical-laden x-rays. Now there is state-of-the-art technology to diagnose oral cancer better, reduce possible infection, and catch dental problems quicker than in the past. Patients also can experience less discomfort, less numbness downtime, less exposure to radiation--as well as be better informed regarding their dental work in real time.
This is a guest post from contributing author Charlie Oszvald. Charlie is writing for Smile Studio. Smile Studios Dr. Hap Gill has a special interest in cosmetic dentistry and is an experienced implant dentist offering wide range of dentist services and invisible braces.