In the vanguard of digitisation in dentistry

Digital technology is changing the way dentists treat patients, improving outcomes and enhancing the patient experience. In the past, the general public was likely to associate dentistry with pain, fear and inconvenience. The advent of digital dental techniques, which are becoming embedded in routine practice, is helping to change the way in which dentistry is performed and perceived.

Dentsply Sirona, the world’s leading dental equipment and consumables company, is playing a key role in the transformation of dentistry, through technological innovation.

The company was formed in 2016 with the merger of two leading dental manufacturers. This created an end-to-end dental solution provider, focused on empowering dental professionals to deliver better, safer, faster dental care; an organisation whose trusted brands help dental professionals deliver the best care to their patients.

From a patient perspective, one of the most welcome innovations is single-visit dentistry. Dentists are harnessing technology that enables them to create crowns, veneers, inlays, onlays and bridges within the duration of a single appointment.

Traditionally, these procedures have taken two or even three appointments to complete, causing inconvenience to patients as well as sometimes leaving them in discomfort or pain for a number of days. For many patients, single-visit dentistry could mean that silver fillings, metal in crowns or unnatural looking teeth are no longer necessary because materials used in these restorations are natural-looking and biocompatible.

Dentsply Sirona is in the vanguard of digitisation in dentistry. The technology is no longer seen as the preserve of early adopters, but is now becoming increasingly accessible and affordable. Dentsply Sirona has created a solution, which integrated successfully into the workflow of high street practices, can bring predictable treatment outcomes and improved patient satisfaction.

Digital technology can now be applied to every element of the dental practice. At the heart of the digitisation process is the growing popularity of Dentsply Sirona’s CEREC (chairside economical restoration of esthetic ceramics) technology, which is becoming the industry standard. CEREC uses CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided milling) technology, which incorporates a camera, computer and milling machine into one system.

CEREC camera technology and computer-aided milling machine

Impression-taking is for many patients one of the most uncomfortable aspects of dentistry, often initiating the gagging reflex. The CEREC system utilises an easy-to-use, digital camera that takes scans of the upper and lower arches, generating a precise digital image of the tooth or space to be restored and removing the need for messy, traditional impressions to be taken and sent to a laboratory. The camera scans are accurate to within 19 micrometers (µm), deliver a more comfortable experience and, because there is less bleeding, patients report less pain and quicker healing. The scans are the first step in a fully digitised process, which enables the dentist to design the restoration at the patients’ chairside.

The digital image is transferred and displayed on a full-colour screen, where the dentist or a trained colleague uses CAD to virtually design the restoration. The CAM then takes over and automatically creates the restoration which is milled in the surgery. Finally, the newly created restoration is bonded to the surface of the old, conserved tooth.

The speed and simplicity of the procedure is often far in excess of patients’ expectations and means that a patient can be in and out of the practice with a fully restored tooth within an hour, making repeat visits and temporisation things of the past.

For busy patients, the integration of digital techniques is a breakthrough that is delivering accurate, comfortable treatment in a fast and efficient manner and has positive, practical implications, enabling patients to benefit from innovations in mainstream dentistry and revolutionising their experience of visiting a dentist.

For practitioners who prefer to work with their technician, the seamless transfer of digital images from practice to laboratory, together with computerised design and manufacture, ensure the creation of accurate, functional and highly aesthetic restorations. Once returned to the practice, the clinician can have complete confidence in the fit and accuracy of these restorations, reducing the need for costly remakes.

With 13,200 dental practices in the UK, any change to the way treatments are performed is likely to have a significant impact on an industry that delivers primary care with a value in excess of £8 billion a year.

In the past five years, the application of digital technology has facilitated a change in the provision of dentistry. This change is enabling dentists, in both the NHS and the private sector, to benefit from features that are creating more efficient practices. The subsequent impact on the revenue growth of dental practices could be substantial.

Increased throughput of patients, single-appointment restorative treatment and the ability to diagnose, create and fit restorations with a greater degree of accuracy are creating a healthcare sector fit for the 21st century and one that is far better able to meet patient demands.

As life expectancy in the UK increases, the demand for healthcare provision grows and the need to maintain and restore oral health into later life requires evermore innovative techniques and solutions. Digital dentistry has a significant role to play to ensure that provision can be highly efficient, while adhering to the expectations of dental professionals in terms of clinical efficacy, accuracy, fit and aesthetics.

Further improvements are just over the horizon in digital dental technology. This will encourage the general public to embrace the prospect of dental treatment, not only in terms of pain relief but also aesthetics. Digitisation is helping to break down barriers, delivering enhanced care and improved outcomes in every dental discipline. Dentsply Sirona is at the forefront of this digital revolution, with a simple goal – to empower dentists to deliver better, safer and faster dentistry.

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