In today’s world, fascinating new technologies seem like a dime a dozen. People today don’t even blink when they hear the words “self driving car” or “drone delivered packages,” because if 2016 has taught us anything, it is that anything is possible. The same holds true with dental advances over the past few years.
Although many new and exciting technologies have resolved problems that puzzled dentists for eons, most people either aren’t familiar with these advances or don’t appreciate their significance. Here are three incredible new dental techniques and technologies that have changed the game, and how they could benefit you the next time you need to find a dentist.
Intraoral Camera Exploration
If you are like most people, you might cringe when you open wide for that routine dental cleaning and exam. Before your dentist gives your teeth the usual once-over, you have to endure what seems like an eternity of plaque removal and cavity detection. Although dental cleanings and exams can be uncomfortable, a single new technology is changing the patient experience while improving accuracy.
Intraoral cameras are small, pen-like tools fitted with powerful fiber optic cameras that can help dentists to detect lesions, fractures, and tissue damage that would otherwise be difficult to spot. Available in a wide range of models including versions designed to identify oral cancer, intraoral cameras don’t need to come in contact with the teeth or tissue to take high-quality images of the area. This all but eliminates poking and prodding from the checkup. In a recent study focusing on six different brands of intraoral cameras, the ADA found that they were accurate and effective—helping dentists to streamline routine exams.
The Pinhole Surgical Technique
In addition to giving your smile an aged look, gum recession can cause problems like severe dental sensitivity, issues with decay near the gum roots, and even loose teeth. To remedy the problem, dental professionals used to recommend traditional gum grafting surgery. This procedure involved harvesting tissue from elsewhere in the mouth, cutting flaps around the exposed areas, and sewing the grafts into place—a procedure that was uncomfortable and required a long and arduous recovery.
Fast forward to 2016, however, and the Pinhole Surgical Procedure has made gum grafting obsolete. Invented in 2006 by Dr. John Chao, the pinhole surgical technique involves making a tiny incision in the gum tissue above the affected tooth and then using a specially designed tool to push the gum tissue towards the teeth. Small collagen strips are then inserted to hold the gum tissue in place as it heals. Since your gum tissue is made up of mostly collagen, the strips absorb naturally, and there is no need for additional procedures to remove them.
The pinhole surgical technique is special because it is incredibly well tolerated by patients and requires almost no recovery time. Results can be seen immediately after the procedure is finished, although some swelling and bruising is normal. Also, because the procedure can be used to treat several teeth at a time, it is much faster than traditional gum grafting surgery.
Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure (LANAP)
Gum disease occurs when bacteria invade the oral tissues near the teeth, causing serious swelling, inflammation, infections, and even systemic problems. To treat gum disease, doctors use a variety of methods ranging from antibiotics to the physical removal of the plaque and tartar below the gum line that harbors the bacteria. However, some of these treatments were uncomfortable for patients.
For example, one common procedure that is still used today is called pocket reduction surgery. To remove bacteria from below the gum line, dentists open up the area around the affected tooth, excise infected tissue, scale the teeth, and then sew the gum tissue back down. Unfortunately, physically removing the diseased tissue is time consuming and difficult for patients—which is why LANAP is such an exciting advancement.
LANAP uses a tiny fiber optic probe to remove diseased tissue and disinfect the gingival pockets. The kind of lasers used in LANAP create a powerful wavelength of light that goes through healthy tissue without harming it, but is absorbed by diseased tissue—allowing it to selectively destroy infection and damaged tissue while protecting healthy structures. The laser can also help dentists to create protective blood clots that keep the area clean while it heals, helping patients to recover from gum disease quickly and easily.
New, exciting dental technologies are being developed every day that could make your next appointment even more painless and convenient. For more information about how your local dental office is changing, make an appointment with your dental professional for a checkup.