Going to the dentist will probably never be fun. As long as needles, picks, and pliers remain the tools of the trade, no two words cause more dread than “dental appointment.”
But visiting the dentist has, at least, gotten interesting. Thanks to another two words — digital dentistry, your next dental visit might be downright revolutionary.
Advances in digital dentistry software and hardware technology promises higher quality, lower-cost dental procedures. In this article, we examine 5 digital dentistry solutions that are transforming the industry. And who knows, they might hurt less.
Key topics we will cover:
- Digital Radiography
- Guided Surgery
- Digital Dental 3D Printing
- Dental Milling
- Dental Practice Software
What is Digital Dentistry?
Advances in dentistry rely on digital technology to help maintain oral health. From replacing conventional x-rays to creating new sets of teeth right in the dentist office, digital dentistry puts a modern face on an age-old industry.
Currently, about 75% of dentists run their own practice. Most of them have found adopting the latest digital dentistry trends too costly to consider. But that is changing.
Organizations such as the Digital Dentistry Society are working to increase awareness among dentists. Along with increased awareness comes increased adoption, and, thus, lower cost.
Dental care is no longer just about helping patients to keep their teeth. Digital aesthetic dentistry transforms the science of dentistry into an artform. Now, dentists can custom-design smiles for their patients.
Let’s look at a few of the advantages offered by digital dentistry.
Digital Radiography in Dentistry
Nothing is more common to the dental experience than the dental x-ray. But despite more than 120 years of use, the x-ray image leaves a lot to be desired. Digital x-rays, or radiography, as they are also known, offer many advantages that benefit both patient and dentist.
Lower Radiation Levels
First, conventional x-rays expose the patient to radiation. Although routine x-rays taken by your dentist are considered safe, the less your exposure to x-rays the better.
While radiography also uses x-rays, they are much weaker. In fact, you receive 75% less radiation from a radiography x-ray than from a conventional one.
Conventional x-ray film must be developed using a chemical process. Dental assistants must be trained in developing dental film. Depending on how many teeth are x-rayed, the process can take from a few minutes to nearly half an hour.
Digital x-ray images are available immediately after the image is taken. Since the images are displayed on a computer monitor, there is no film to be developed.
Digital imagery in dentistry improves the quality and speed of dental procedures. As the cost of digital x-ray equipment drops, so, too, will the cost of dental x-rays.
High-quality digital systems can produce images that are sharper than those obtained using film. In addition to greater image resolution, special imaging software can provide additional clarity and details
Using Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT), dentists can obtain 3D and panoramic images of your entire mouth. Traditional x-rays cannot provide this amount of detail.
Since radiography converts x-rays into computer images, your dentist can easily share your dental images with other dental care providers. For example, you family dentist could send your x-rays to your oral surgeon, or to a colleague, for quick review.
Just as the name implies, guided surgery provides a guide for dentists to use when performing dental implant procedures.
How Guided Surgery Works
Using a 3D dental cone beam CT (CBCT) scanner, the dentist takes a scan of the patient’s entire mouth. CT stands for Computerized Tomography, which is a fancy name for producing a 3D x-ray image.
The image produced by the CBCT scan is sent to a dental lab. The lab uses the image to create a surgical drilling guide, which the dentist will use during the implant procedure. The dentist will place the guide in the patient’s mouth, and will use it much like a template to drill the hole in precisely the correct location.
Applications for Guided Surgery
While drilling guides are not often needed for single implants, they can be valuable when drilling holes for two or more implants.
Guided surgery replaces “freehand” surgery techniques, where the dentist used calipers, gauges, and other instruments to identify the correct location for drilling. For single implants, the dentist might still use the freehand method. However, when more precision is required, guided surgery offers an economical alternative to conventional surgical techniques.
Digital Dental 3D Printing
3D printing isn’t just a new buzzword, it’s how your next crown or bridge might be made. How it works is straight out of science fiction. 3D printers take a special computer image and “print” a 3D physical representation of that image. For example, your dentist could use a dental 3D printer to create a crown for you, based on a 3D image he produced on the computer.
The dental 3D printing industry is projected to exceed $9.5 billion (USD) by 2027, and will make up the majority of the HealthTech dental market.
3D printing currently has three primary applications in dentistry, which we will discuss now.
3D Printing for Investment Casting
Casting does not produce the final product directly. Rather, the printer produces a mould that is used to cast, or form, the crown, bridge, or whatever your situation requires.
Ceramic, metal, resin, and various other materials can be heated and poured into the mould to produce the desired product. As the material cools, it hardens and is removed from the mould for finishing and placement in the patient’s mouth.
Direct Manufacturing of Dental Appliances and Restorations
In direct manufacturing, the printer prints the object directly, without the use of a mould. Rather than using ink, the 3D printer uses a layering process to deposit miniscule droplets of resin, metal, or other material. During the printing process, a complete 3D object is constructed that matches the image on the computer.
Direct Manufacturing of Surgical Guides and Dental Tools
3D printing not only produces prosthetic crowns, implants, bridges, and dentures, but they can also create customized surgical guides and dental tools your dentist will use to perform your procedure.
We discussed, earlier, the advantages of guided surgery. Advances in 3D printing technology makes possible this valuable tool.
No two mouths are the same. Depending on your unique situation, your dentist might need a special tool or dental appliance to get the best results from your dental procedure. In the past, having custom devices created for patients was simply too expensive and time consuming to consider. 3D printing technology allows your dentist to design a custom device on his computer and to print the object right in his office.
Where 3D printing prints a 3D object, milling uses a computer model to carve out a 3D object. Dental milling uses a process called CAD/CAM, which stands for Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing.
Dental milling is proving to be a valuable tool in the modern dental office and lab. A quick look at the advantages will show you why.
Dental milling machines produce dental prosthetics with extreme precision. Unlike handmade prosthetics, computer-controlled milling machines produce predictable results every time.
Time and Cost Savings
As prices drop, milling machines are no longer just for the lab. Independent dental offices can now afford their own. Having milling capability in the office allows faster turnaround and cost savings.
Dental Practice Software
The advantages of digital dentistry do not just benefit the back office. The front office benefits, as well. From appointment booking to treatment planning, HealthTech has found its way into dental offices and labs across the globe.
By combining cloud technology, AI, and conventional office administration tools, digital dentistry offers complete Practice Management Systems (PMS) solutions.
Artificial intelligence (AI) empowers dentistry scheduling software to intelligently schedule patient visits. AI analyzes how your staff schedules appointments. Then it schedules visits in ways that make the most sense for your office staff.
Secure cloud-based platforms enable patients to schedule their own appointments. This feature can be offered to all patients. Or it can be made available only to certain patients based on rules you set in advance.
Unscheduled appointments can be difficult for staff to accommodate. AI-based dental software solves the problem. With AI, walk-ins can be scheduled to be seen with the least impact to your appointment planner. Likewise, your short-call list can be automated and patients called to fill cancellations.
Tracking lab work and scheduling patient follow-up visits requires time and effort. AI programs can automate these crucial tasks.
Patient Online Portal
Patients, today, demand transparency and easy access to their medical records. Cloud-based platforms that integrate with office PMS systems offer both. Now, patients can view their patient history, review treatment plans, view invoices, and send notes or questions to the dental staff.
Insurance and Billing Management
Few office duties take as much time as filing insurance claims and billing patients. Digital dentistry technology automates most of the tasks associated with coding and filing claims. By automating these tasks, practices see a reduction in labor hours, and significantly fewer mistakes.
Recording Clinical Notes
Gone are the days when dentists enter notes in the patient’s folder. Digital dentistry allows dentists to add text or oral notations into to patient’s file. Clinical notes can be easily searched and accessed as needed.
The digitization of dentistry requires good file management. Digital x-rays, treatment plans, record archives, daily schedules, and clinical notes must be stored and accessed quickly. Well-designed software can organize files in a manner that lets staff access them intuitively.
Connecting With Patients
PMS solutions can also tap the power of big data. The result is software that automatically engages patients through social media channels. Appointment reminders, promotions, and even billing reminders can provided to patients using the channels they use most.
Reminding patients of appointments through SMS text messages can also be automated.
Integrated POS Systems
Integrated Point-of-Sale (POS) software can automatically present the proper amount due at the time of the visit. Since the software ties in with billing and insurance databases, the system always knows if the patient’s deductible has been met.
Mobile Dental Apps
No industry digitization would be complete without mobile apps. And digital dentistry has them.
An increasing array of apps are available for displaying dental images, providing medication information, sending prescriptions, and for educating patients.
The link between digital dentistry and medicine is becoming stronger every day. As a result, dentists are increasingly using apps to select and prescribe drugs.
Ignite – Your Technology Provider
The digital dentistry market is maturing into multi-billion-dollar industry. As the need for advanced medical software in the dental industry increases, custom development will provide many of the solutions.
If healthcare software development is listed in your vertices, you need a technology partner. Ignite provides world-class outsource development at competitive prices. We operate six R&D labs across Europe, and have qualified teams ready to begin your dental project.
Why not contact us today for a no-cost consultation?