Worried about going to the dentist? You may not have been for years, so now is the time to grit your teeth and go because twenty-first century dentists have an array of technology on hand to ensure your visit won’t leave you feeling down in the mouth
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine. Imagine you have to visit your local dentist for a filling or a root canal or, heaven forbid, an appointment with the dreaded hygienist. Imagine the smells and sounds of your childhood. Imagine the scary receptionist glaring at you through a glass hatch. Imagine sitting in a plastic chair in the bare waiting room waiting to be called through. . . . Horrible isn’t it? Who would want to put themselves through that and have to pay for it?
Well, let’s step back for a moment, because modern dentistry has changed. A lot. Over the past 10 years or so, there have been amazing advances in the provision of dental care. Not just in how we can fix teeth quickly, painlessly and beautifully, but also how we can do it in comfortable and relaxing surroundings. Let me share a flavour of what’s possible.
A black cab pulls up outside your front door. It’s your courtesy car to take you to your dental appointment. You arrive at the surgery’s front door to be greeted by the front-of-house manager, who takes your coat and settles you into a beautiful lounge, decorated with stunning pieces of local art and fabulous fresh flowers. You’re offered your choice of drinks (freshly made coffee, one of 30 types of tea; juice or water) and an iPad with various entertainment and informative options.
After a few minutes taking in the luxurious atmosphere, you start to wonder what the smell is. It isn’t the vaguely antiseptic aroma or anything you remember from those unpleasant childhood dental visits. It’s the smell of fresh baking. It’s then that you notice a gentleman just leaving the building with a big smile on his face, carrying a small brown branded bag. You find out it contains freshly baked, sugar-free cookies, as well as a selection of oral health products that have been tailored to his needs. You’re impressed.
Soon enough, you’re greeted by the dentist and taken up to a space-age looking, yet oddly relaxing treatment room. After a long chat on a comfy chair in the corner of the room, you’re invited to take a seat in the equally comfy treatment chair and he starts to examine your mouth. Not just your teeth, but your jaw joints, muscles, gums and everything in between. After a while, the dentist brings out a strange, gun-like object and explains that it’s a VELscope, a special type of light he shines in your mouth to detect any abnormalities. This new form of technology is effectively used to detect early forms of cancer or disease during an oral cancer screening. With nothing sinister found, he says you need to have some X-rays taken. But, unlike old-fashioned film X-rays, these are digital, which are faster and less harmful than traditional X-rays as they contain up to 90per cent less radiation. The image appears on the computer screen in a matter of seconds. The dentist can then zoom in to the image to better assess your teeth and also provide you with information about the state of your oral health.
As you’re interested, he then uses a special camera to give you a virtual tour of your mouth. You can see for yourself what’s wrong and, suddenly, it all makes sense and you understand what he wants to do and why. It’s an enlightening experience. So, the dentist tells you that you need a crown, and memories flood back of mess and choking as the impression is taken; then the wait while the crown is being made and you, walking around with a ‘temporary crown’ for two weeks eating nothing but mush. Worry not says your new best friend. It does not have to be like this at all. The dentist explains that he can take a digital impression with his laser scanner. This is then sent to a computerised lathe housed in the bowels of the practice, which makes the crown by cutting down a block of super tough ceramic with pinpoint accuracy. An hour or so later it’s ready and the dentist can bond it into place straight away. No choking, no mess, no temporary crown and no two weeks of eating mush.
Obviously you say yes to the procedure and, as you wait, you take the opportunity to watch a film wearing 3D glasses, sitting in a deeply relaxing massage chair.
Three hours later, you leave the surgery with your new crown and a head full of knowledge about what might be possible: teeth whitened quickly and safely; crooked teeth straightened with invisible braces in six months; titanium implants to replace missing teeth and white fillings to replace those ugly old metal ones.
But that’ll have to wait though for another time. You’ll be back and you won’t be worrying about it.
Written by David Watson for WR Magazine