Q: I have been going to the dentist since I was a child. Im amazed at the changes in dentistry, the dental office and equipment over the last 50 years. What are the biggest changes in dentistry in your lifetime?
A: I have been along for the high-technology changes in dentistry myself. I started going to the dentist as a child in the 1950s and I am still a dental patient. I still remember the disinfectant smells, the belt-driven drills and pump-adjusted dental chairs.
So, what are the biggest changes? Here are my top five answers to what is now in and what is out in the modern dental office.
- Colors are present. The everything-white dental office has been replaced. White uniforms, instrument trays, patient bibs and counter tops can now be bright, vibrant colors.
- The dentist sits down. Modern dental chairs recline and the dentist sits down to work. Instrument trays and delivery systems are from the side or behind the patient. No more rinse-and-spit cuspidors. Four-handed dentistry with suction systems and dental assistants allows for a more ergonomic means of practicing dentistry.
- Digital X-rays have eliminated the need for dark rooms to develop film. No more photographic chemical smell. No more lighted view boxes to see the films. X-ray images appear immediately and store in the office computer system.
The advantages of digital radiographs are less radiation exposure to produce the image and immediate graphics, and images can be printed or emailed to specialists or insurance carriers. Also, there is no impact on the environment from the disposal of developing chemicals, film wrappers, metal foil and rinse water.
- Less of a paper trail in the business office. Computers networked through the office have or are replacing typewriters, charts, ledgers, files, peg-board billing, Rolodex phone files, credit card machines and intercoms. Technology changes require added equipment in all treatment areas. Paperless dental offices will continue to increase in number and are sure to lead the way to increased and improved patient services and better patient care.
- More than just Muzak and Highlights magazines. Sounds with satellite radio have improved and allow a variety of music and programs. Headphones, iPods, Kindles and Wi-Fi allow the patient to bring their personal music and reading materials into the office and treatment areas.
The question for the future is how technology will bring about better dentistry.