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    The top 10 developments in dental technology in 2017

    2017 has been a year of advancements ­— not in tools themselves, but in how they impact the industry.

     

    Dental patient

    1. The rise of emotional dentistry

    When we think of technology, we often think of optimizing processes and analyzing data, but we don’t often think about the effect technology can have on our emotions. But in dentistry, that’s been one of the biggest consequences, according to Jason Atwood, CDT. He says that the biggest thing to happen in dental tech in 2017 was the rise of emotional dentistry. 

    “What I’m referring to is how digital technology is able to involve the patient from the start by using virtual reality to get an emotional response from the patient so they can envision themselves with their final restorations,” Atwood says. That emotional response is something that can happen at the first appointment. 

    “With digital photos and virtual mockups and things like that, we’re able to give the patient a much more defined representation of what their final restorations will look like on their face, instead of just on a model,” he says. “It helps the patient become emotionally committed to the outcome, and it’s really what’s going to start driving esthetic dentistry in the future.” 

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    A major aspect of emotional dentistry is that patients can now choose and try on different smiles to find the one that fits. This is in stark contrast to the traditional process. 

    “The traditional way, most of the decisions were left up to the doctor,” he says. “You’d get impressions taken and they’d be sent off to the lab. Then the doctor and the lab would discuss a diagnostic wax-up. The lab would send it back to the dentist, who’d show the patient a model and ask if it looked nice and the patient would say yes or no. There wasn’t a lot of input from the patient.” 

    He says they could sometimes make small adjustments for the patient, or even do an occasional remake. “But looking at waxed teeth on a model does not help the patient visualize how their face is going to look with those teeth,” Atwood says.

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    With today’s technology, patients can see their new smile on their face before any work has been done. 

    “With a digital photo and some virtual design software, a doctor is able to let their patient  ‘try on’ different smiles until they find one that fits,” he says. “There is even an option now to have a ‘donor smile,’ where the patient can choose someone else’s smile.” Take, for instance, a case Atwood was recently a part of in which a mother was able to point to her daughter’s smile as a source of inspiration for her restorative work. He says it made her feel as if she’d gone back in time 30 years. 

    “That’s why it’s emotional dentistry,” he says. “It’s not just ‘make it function’ anymore. It’s much more of a personal connection. This is a benefit for the doctor; the patient feels connected to the outcome because they were involved in the decision making. The result is a happy patient every time.” 

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