Until the Second World War, the dental students where I went to school (UCSF) used to spend the first two weeks of dental school down by the Bay at the U.C. Foundry making their own dental instruments. My class came along a generation later so we didn’t have to learn how to be blacksmiths in dental school but dentistry hadn’t changed much for the previous 100 years. Happily, high technology and material science at last have come to dentistry. As I enter my 36th year as a dentist, I did not imagine that I would be taking more classes, study clubs, and workshops than I did just out of dental school but that is how exciting the field has become. All the change has been for the better, too! I can enter all my treatment notes right at the chair. We take digital x-rays so there are no more toxic darkroom chemicals or waiting for film x-rays to develop. The digital x-rays use only one-third the radiation. I can send the digital x-rays to the insurance companies for pre-authorization with just a click. What’s not to like about that progress?
Digital dentistry also means digital impressions! We can use our 3D scanner to scan your mouth and teeth for a more accurate (and less messy) mold of the teeth. This allows the lab to design more accurate crowns (sometimes the same appointment) and bridges and we get them back faster.
Aside from the digital revolution because of advances in materials science, the new dental materials are much easier to use and safer now too. The silver-mercury amalgam that had to be hand mixed and stuffed into a filling with a plunger is gone for good. None of us miss having to worry about mercury vapors around the office or in our patient’s mouths! Now we use composite resins that we can sculpt and harden on cue with a special lights.