By Dr. Michael Letham, BDS
For some, the thought of a dental visit can be a terrifying, anxiety-inducing experience.
While most dental procedures aren’t painful, dental practices are still plagued by fear-inducing stigmas. According to a British Dental Foundation survey, 36% of individuals who did not regularly visit their dentist said that fear was the main reason.
However, the introduction of advanced dental technology is changing all that. These modern technological solutions are tackling traditional dental problems — specifically, patient behaviors.
Integrating such advanced digital technology is allowing dentists to improve diagnoses, proposed treatments, and communications with patients.
The following are five ways that technology is improving dentistry for the better.
1. Creating a “pain-free” experience
Technology is doing more than addressing inefficiencies and clearing lines of communication. The democratization of technology has afforded patients a more comfortable experience given the circumstances.
Computerized tools like dental lasers and The Wand simplify complex procedures, providing patients a more “pain-free experience.”
The Wand, for example, supplies a less invasive process for delivering anesthesia. Rather than delivering anesthesia too quickly or with too much force, The Wand employs anesthesia in a slow, gentle, and methodical manner, making injections painless.
Laser dentistry also diminishes previously painful procedures. As a less invasive precision tool, dental lasers do not require the use of dental drills, resulting in minimal discomfort and less pain. Further, gingival procedures such as periodontal therapy can be done in one dental visit.
2. Enhancing patient communication
While reasons exist for dental anxieties and phobias, many patients report the feeling of helplessness and loss of control as a root problem. Adopting digital technology addresses such common concerns.
Digital allows dental practices to increase case acceptance by diagnosing conditions with greater accuracy. Digital x-rays, digital records, and 2-D and 3-D images provide patients with clearer views of dental problems, easing concerns.
While anxiety may persist, new technologies are creating clearer lines of communication between dentists and patients, helping fear to subside in many patients.
3. Refining dental pain relief
Technological advancements transformed the in-office experience, creating relatively “pain-free” procedures. But what about pre- and post-operative treatment?
In the past, provisions for immediate pain relief for pre- and post-operative patients were limited to over-the-counter pain medication or applying ice. Pain and discomfort would linger for days or even weeks.
The severity of the issue would determine patient behavior, furthering negative perceptions. Digital technology now presents solutions for patients requiring pain relief before and after treatment.
Laser dentistry eliminates the need for scalpels, reducing post-operative pain.
Further, post-op recovery is expedited and pain and discomfort minimized with the assistance of a PRF (platelet-rich fibrin) procedure, a “healing biomaterial” that stimulates bone and soft tissue growth.
Laser therapy is also employed as part of the pre-treatment process.
Cold low level laser therapy provides fast, effective pain relief for patients experiencing severe pain and discomfort. Restoring a patient’s physical comfort before treatment or surgery occurs helps to regain the patient’s trust, fostering a more positive dental experience.
4. Improving dental education
Patient education is a major aspect of a patient’s behavior towards dentistry.
Imparting knowledge on causes and issues regarding dental diseases promotes wellness and prevention. However, it takes more than just a conversation to impress the importance of dental education.
Imaging technology encourages patients to be more involved with their oral health, particularly when it comes to pediatric patients.
More accurate diagnoses through the use of Cone Beam and Intraoral Imaging ensure patients are well-informed about what procedures and treatments must be carried out. The use of 3-D models and patient education videos can motivate patients to assume responsibility for their oral healthcare.
Encouraging further discussions creates for an informed patient. And an informed patient is more likely to have positive associations with a dental practice than an uninformed one.
5. Reducing treatment timeframes
Part of a patient’s negative perception of dentistry lies in the requirement of multiple dental visits and long wait times for treatment.
Traditionally, cosmetic procedures and dental treatments such as dental crowns required multiple appointments. But with the introduction of new technologies like 3-D printing and CEREC technology, patients are offered single-visit restorations.
For patients, this means less drilling, fewer injections, a more accelerated healing timeline, and more importantly, fewer interruptions from their schedule for dental care.
Addressing patient inefficiencies
The exciting growth of digital technology within the industry is leading to greater amounts of leading-edge dental treatment.
The incorporation of digital-based solutions is enabling better collaboration between dentists and their patients. Patients are then rewarded with quicker and more immediate, detailed information regarding their dental health.
Easier access, lower costs, and less invasive procedures are improving quality of care, ensuring patients receive the best care and changing patient behaviors for the better.
Dr. Michael Letham is the owner and dentist at 24/7 Dental and Bayside Smiles. He graduated from Sydney University in 2000 with Honours, receiving the R Morse Withycombe Prize for Proficiency in Clinical Periodontics (gum treatment). Striving to provide a modern, holistic approach to dental care that is tailored to each individual's requirements, Mike's focus is on being thorough and meticulous whilst being caring and compassionate.
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