Prevention key to avoiding disease
by Diane Silcox-Jarrett
For many, an anticipated trip to the dentist conjures up fears of drilling and filling. Fortunately, recent advancements in dental technology are helping ease those fears while helping dentists better treat patients.
“Technology in dentistry is changing at a very rapid rate,” says Dr. Ashley Mann, a Cary-based dentist.
“We truly are in a period of dental advancements that has never been seen before.”
“As professionals, we have become more efficient by using new technology and modern equipment,” adds Dr. Mandy Ghaffarpour of Studio G Aesthetic and Family Dentistry in Chapel Hill.
Early detection of problems has always been one of the main focuses of dentistry, and is an area in which advances in dental technology have had clear benefits.
“Dentistry has focused a lot on prevention and early detection, from digital radiography to laser cavity detection and oral cancer screening,” says Dr. Melissa Davidian of Smiles by Davidian in Raleigh.
Here’s a primer on the latest trends in dental care.
Cerec and crowns
Even with early detection, teeth sometimes break down and require crowns. Not so long ago, this would involve two office visits, messy impressions and a temporary crown. Now, this method is becoming a thing of the past.
“In one visit, patients can have an all-porcelain crown made and bonded,” says Dr. Valerie Preston of 614 Dental Spa in Raleigh.
A Cerec CAD/CAM image is taken and the crown is produced in a milling chamber, which all can be done in the office.
“This technology has been around for approximately 10 to 15 years but has been perfected in the past five,” Preston says.
According to Ghaffarpour, Cerec allows dentists to be more involved in the crown process.
“The system enables us to make a better diagnosis, and the crown is made of stronger material,” she says.
“We can design the crown or onlay on the computer with the patient sitting right beside us, so any questions that arise can be addressed quickly and the desires of the patient can be implemented in the final restorations without involving a dental laboratory,” Mann notes.
Lasers also are evolving as a daily element of dental offices in several procedures, such as in the treatment of gum disease.
“I use Periolase laser therapy that treats and can even reverse periodontal disease without the traditional, painful cut-and-sew surgery,” says Dr. Rebecca Schmorr of Glenwood Smiles in downtown Raleigh.
Ghaffarpour and Preston use DIAGNOdent lasers as a cavity detection system. These lasers deliver energy in the form of light at specific wavelengths, which is absorbed by the target enamel or decay. Early cavity detection with DIAGNOdent often can eliminate the need for anesthesia. And because the cavity is detected in its early stages, it sometimes can be reversed with good care and fluoride treatment.
According to Dr. Giselle B. Sloop of Sloop Dentistry in Raleigh, dental implants are making quite an impression as well.
“It has been around for decades, but the design has come a long way,” she says of implants, which can be used for tooth replacement, as well as for creating better stability and function with dentures.
“In addition to improving quality of life and chewing function, implants have such a wonderful success rate,” she adds.
“This form of tooth replacement is truly incredible.”
Another trend in the marketplace is three-dimensional imaging for implants.
“Some dentists now actually obtain CAT scan machines right in their own offices,” Preston says.
Before this type of imaging was available, these scans would have to be done at a hospital.
“We can use the imaging for implants, which are titanium posts that are integrated into the bone replacing the missing teeth,” Preston notes.
“Formerly, people with lower dentures sometimes would have trouble with them floating all over their mouths; with this procedure, the teeth stay in place by snapping onto the implants.”
3-D imaging and X-ray technology are continuing to become more affordable, and area experts agree that their use will aid in prevention.
“They will be used to help diagnose disease more accurately and quickly, and eliminate unnecessary procedures,” Mann says.
“Digital radiography can reduce the amount of radiation to the patient by up to 60 percent,” adds Dr. Lionel Nelson of Bregman Dentistry in Durham.
“Intraoral photography allows the patient to better see and understand the condition of their oral cavity,” he adds, pointing out that digital radiography and intraoral photography are tools that allow dentists to make more definitive diagnoses.
“Both also allow the storing of sensitive patient information in a secure manner.”
Sloop adds that the use of digital radiography also helps area offices go green.
“Having digital X-rays in our office that are stored in computerized patient records offers us the ability to be a paperless practice,” she says.
Trends in orthodontic care
Advancing technology also is helping children and adults alike perfect their smiles.
“I offer Powerprox six-month braces, which is a limited orthodontic treatment for adults,” Schmorr explains.
Dr. Larry Moray of The Happy Tooth, which has several Triangle locations, says the use of temporary anchorage devices (TADs) is an advancement that has benefited many orthodontic patients.
TADs — temporary mini screws that are placed in the jawbone with a small amount of local anesthesia — sometimes can be used in place of having jaw surgery and allow orthodontic movements that previously were difficult or impossible to achieve.
“TADs more accurately control the movement and positioning of the teeth,” Moray says.
“We can many times close spaces due to missing teeth rather than having bridges or implants placed,” he adds of using TADs. “They are quite comfortable, easy to place and are noninvasive.”
Another trend in orthodontic care is the increasing use of digital models.
“What patients like the least when they visit an orthodontist is having a mold made of their teeth,” Moray notes.
Orthodontists now are able to create 3-D images of the teeth instead of using plaster models. This allows them to make measurements more easily and show patients how their teeth might look when aligned. According to Moray, future plans would do away with patient molds completely.
“Then the patient would see a great benefit,” he says.
Teeth whitening treatments also are advancing so that smiles can light up a room much more quickly. Preston uses Zoom, a one-hour whitening system, and notes that patients like the fast and easy procedure.
“We have lots of patients come in for this who’ve tried the trays at home, gotten tired of them and want to see faster results,” she says.
MI Paste is another advancement that helps treat certain types of stains. According to Schmorr, there was a time when the only solution for people with white or brown spots was to do composite bonding on affected areas. Today, MI Paste can be applied by the patient nightly to recalcify these areas, get rid of discoloration and work on any incipient carious lesions, or early-stage cavities.
According to Davidian, advancements in dental health can be as easy as the brand of gum you decide to chew.
“I think Xylitol is a great product that can benefit the public,” she says.
“Most bacteria in the mouth cannot break down Xylitol like it can other sugars to form acids,” Davidian adds. “Therefore, if you chew gum with Xylitol after meals and snacks, then your teeth are protected from decay formation.”
Davidian notes that Xylitol also is beneficial for patients suffering from dry mouth due to medication or radiation treatments.
Even with all of these advancements, Schmorr tells patients that the best way to take care of their teeth is to practice good prevention.
“We still tell people that the cheapest and easiest thing to do is brush, floss, and stay away from sodas and sweets,” she says.
“It’s not very technologically advanced, but this is a fact.”
Diane Silcox-Jarrett is a freelance writer based in Raleigh.
A bright alternative
No time for a trip to the dentist to whiten those choppers? Consider letting a professional come to you.
LightSpa RTP, which has a storefront in Knightdale, hosts teeth-whitening events for area businesses and their customers. The company also visits area day spas and fitness centers, and is available for weddings, fundraisers, and other events.
The franchise’s patented process consists of a 15-minute teeth-whitening solution that can result in between two and seven shades of whiter teeth, according to Jim Clements, who co-owns the business with his wife, Angel.
“We use the strongest teeth-whitening solutions in the industry, along with our LED blue-light solutions, to provide results,” he says.
The process typically costs $149 per client and features a bite registration mouthpiece, which is designed to offer more customized solutions. According to Clements, there is no discomfort or pain associated with the procedure.
To learn more about the company or process, call (919) 371-0300 or visit www.lightspartp.com.