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  • Writer's pictureDr. T.J. Emmer

Careful and responsible use of technology in prosthodontics is key

Updated: Sep 6, 2018

It's not progress when quality and outcomes are compromised

Today’s dentists often refer to their ability to use the latest technologies in their marketing and advertise those capabilities prominently.

What’s important to recognize, is that the latest tools, techniques and technologies still require classic dental training to be used properly.

While it may be tempting to assume that computer generated models and analyses will always be accurate and reliable, it’s a risky assumption to make.

Any new technology must be applied with careful consideration of the underlying conditions of the patient and the impact the technology will have on the patient’s mouth and desired outcomes.

Just because something is newer and more efficient, does not always make it more effective or ensure it will provide a quality outcome.

Invisalign Case Study

Here’s an interesting example.

Recently I saw a patient that had been to an orthodontist because she was unhappy with how her bite was coming together. She was experiencing some sensitivity in her teeth, getting the occasional headache, and she didn’t like the way her teeth looked.

The orthodontist recommended Invisalign, a form of clear plastic dental braces used to adjust the position of teeth.

Unfortunately, after a few weeks of wearing the Invisalign the patient was experiencing even more soreness than before and went back to the orthodontist who thought everything looked fine and told her not to worry.

While there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Invisalign or this approach, what the orthodontist failed to recognize was the fact that the patient had a build-up of calculus on her teeth. Calculus, sometimes referred to as tartar, is a hardened plaque or calcification. In this instance, it was significant enough that it was putting pressure on the Invisalign and causing the teeth to move way faster than desired and in the wrong direction too!

I was able to remove the calculus from the tooth and it immediately felt better. The patient was then able to continue the treatment plan with her orthodontist and achieve the desired results.

How to make real progress

The reality is that while the latest tools, techniques and technologies can often provide improvements in the time it takes to get results, the cost of treatment or the cosmetic outcomes, they must applied under the right conditions and in the right situation in order to be effective.

I don’t believe in using new technology just because it’s there and we can. I believe in using it only when it’s appropriate and when it will make a significant difference in helping my patient reach his or her goals. I think there’s a tendency for many people, even the most experienced professionals, to be enamored with technical advances and unreasonably determined to apply them whenever possible.

I believe the latest technologies should only be applied when the underlying condition supports their use and they have a proven track record of working well in the exact circumstances under which we plan to use them.

This quote, attributed to Nobel peace prize winner Christian Louis Lange sums it up nicely, “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master.”


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