Instead of using a conventional drill, the dentist is able to remove decay with a wand-like device that has a small opening through which minute particles are sprayed in a thin stream of air. As these particles bounce-off the tooth they are collected by a large suction hose. These same particles are commonly found in toothpaste and are harmless if swallowed.
Air abrasion is commonly used on children and small shallow cavities. It emits a windy sound (unlike the noisy drill) and in most situations no anesthesia is required. You may however feel some coolness. Air Abrasion cannot be used for extensive work like caps (crowns), removing old silver fillings, and will require anesthesia if the decay is deep. Due to the cost, only about 15% of dentists have Air Abrasion Systems.
Instead of the conventional x-ray film the dentist places a x-ray sensor in your mouth. Attached to the sensor is a wire connected to a computer (some systems are now cordless). The same x-ray beam is directed at the sensor, which then sends the image directly to the computer and onto the monitor. The sensor is then repositioned to take another section of your mouth. This allows the x-rays to be immediately viewed on a monitor without having to wait for them to be chemically developed. With the click of a mouse the size, sharpness, color and contrast of the image can be altered for easier viewing and diagnosis.
This allows the dentist to enlarge the actual x-ray image for better communication. The image is then stored on the computer and can be retrieved at any time for viewing, printing or even email. Besides saving time and being more environmentally friendly (harsh developing chemicals) the radiation exposure to you is reduced by approximately 90%. However, because of the expense only a few dentists have it.
This allows your dentist to whiten your teeth in one or two hours using a concentrated whitening agent, which is activated and intensified, by using a special beam of light. This is very similar to the whitening offered by the much-commercialized Britesmile Whitening Centers. The cost averages around $500. Although the results are immediate, the result differs between individuals and for maintenance it should be followed up with the Take Home System.
Power whitening is for those who do not want to be bothered wearing the bleaching trays. Keep in mind that whitening fades with time (6 months to 2years) and the Home System gives you the best value. Besides being less expensive ($150-$300) the home system allows you to touch up the whitening every 6 months for a night or two to keep them white. This consists of custom-made trays, which holds the whitening against the tooth either overnight or for an hour if you are using a stronger percentage of bleach. If cost were not a factor, power whitening followed up by the one-hour take home system would be ideal.
This is a wand with a tiny camera lens at the tip. The dentist positions it over the tooth and the image is then displayed on a monitor. The image can then be stored as a pretreatment record or printed. This provides an excellent tool not only to show you those old, leaking, cracked fillings, which do not hurt, but also to send along with your insurance claim to secure payment.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Using a Dental Imaging system, the dentist photographs your teeth while smiling which is then immediately viewed on a monitor. Together with your dentist, you can alter the shape, color, length and proportions of your teeth with the click of a mouse. By graphically altering your teeth before beginning cosmetic treatment gives you an idea of what your new smile could look like. Be cautious as this an approximation.
What changes are done on the monitor may not exactly match what the dentist is capable of creating. If the dentist does not have an imaging system you can request a diagnostic wax-up. This is a stone mould of your teeth which is cosmetically altered using tooth colored wax. Before doing any cosmetic dentistry ask to see some before-and-after photos of cases your dentist has actually completed himself.
CAD / CAM
This is a sophisticated machine which is able to manufacture your crown (cap) chair-side in a single dental appointment without having to send it to a laboratory to have it fabricated. This saves you having to wear a temporary cap for 2 weeks and makes a second dental visit to get it fitted unnecessary. Using a 3-D camera the dentist freezes an image of the prepared tooth on a computer. From the image the computer designs the crown.
The computer then send a signal to a small milling machine which then cuts the cap from a solid tooth colored ceramic block. The crown is then fitted and bonded into place. It saves the dentist and you time but at $75 000 only a few dentists in the USA have one. Some opponents believe that the fit of these machined crowns are not as accurate as the conventional laboratory method.