Rapidly advancing technology has improved many aspects of human life over the past 10 to 15 years and it’s no different with dentistry.
“There’s a lot of things happening,” says Dr. Howard Ironstone, a dental surgeon and partner of Cayman Dental and Cayman Orthodontics in the ground floor of the 18 Forum Lane building at Camana Bay.
Ironstone, who says he’s been practising dentistry for longer than he cares to admit, has seen enormous improvements in dental science throughout his career.
“It’s not just the technology that has improved; it’s the profession,” he says, citing dental implants as one example. “When I graduated from dental school, the only implants were put under the tissue, not in the bone, and they were often unsuccessful.”
The accuracy of our treatments has improved tremendously. We’re looking at new parameters for dentistry. Dr. Howard Ironstone
NEW TECHNIQUES AND MATERIALS
New dental techniques, combined with new dental materials, have improved the success rates of implants dramatically, he says.
Root canal procedures also had a higher failure rate in the past than they do now because sometimes the dentist left tissue matter in one of the canals or didn’t see one of the canals, Ironstone says.
“Now we do root canals while looking through a microscope and the success rate has gone way, way up — in the 95th percentile,” he says, adding that the microscopes, which swing on a mechanical arm over the top of a patient’s month, enable dentists to see the roots better, allowing them to do a better job.
“The accuracy of our treatments has improved tremendously,” says Ironstone. “We’re looking at new parameters for dentistry.” Diagnosis is another area where technology has brought great improvements; the X-ray machines of old are now obsolete.
“We use a digital form of X-rays that use 10 per cent of the radiation of the old X-ray machines,” Ironstone says. “They’re also immediate — they don’t require development — and more accurate.”
Dental surgeon Dr. Adam Stang, who just joined Cayman Dental this past summer, says that in addition to better success rates for procedures, the improvements in dentistry have also led to better experiences for patients.
“The modern image of dentistry isn’t one of discomfort,” he says, recalling the days when dentists were often associated with pain. “We practise pain-free dentistry whenever we can. We want to make the patient comfortable.”
Other improvements in dentistry over the past decade or so include much higher quality filling material and computer-guided surgery,
Stang says. “And we can use 3D cone beam technology to determine morphology for a root canal,” he says.
Of course, dentists can only do so much to help a patient’s teeth and good preventative dental practices are now much more common thanks to dental hygienists, Ironstone says.
“A hygienist spends about an hour with the patient, which is usually a lot more than the dentist,” he says. “They can detect a problem and bring it to the attention of the dentist, who can make the diagnosis.”
One thing that hasn’t changed with all the technology improvements is how often someone should have their teeth cleaned and checked — that is still at least once every six months, or more often if a problem like gum disease has been diagnosed.
Because more people are seeing dental hygienists regularly and because the hygienists give good advice on preventative dental care, Ironstone says he sees a lot less of the full neglect of teeth that he once saw. He says there’s a benefit to taking better care of your teeth that goes beyond a person’s teeth as well.
“Recent studies have shown that patients who go to the dentist regularly have lower instances of several diseases,” he says, noting that certain cancers and even gall bladder disease have been linked to gum disease.
“They believe it’s because the bacteria caused by gum disease leads to inflammation of tissue, which in turn can lead to cancer,” he says. “So prevention is still the big, big thing.” Finding the time to go the dentist during a busy work week can be a challenge, but Cayman Dental has extended hours that make it easy.
“We’re open until 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and also 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, in addition to normal business hours,” Stang says.