Childhood memories can be some of the most potent. Take my memory of having a filling done back when I was 12 years old (can that really be more than 40 years ago!!!). In any event, I remember very vividly being in the chair, having a silver (mercury) filling put in my tooth- with a motorized jackhammer!!. Really. It was a drill that condensed the filling into the cavity by vibrating up and down- in time with my head that was also bobbing up and down.
This memory came to mind as I finished up a case with my patient Renee this week , an excellent example of just how far dentistry has come on many levels. Renee was referred to me several years ago from an orthodontist who was finishing up braces for her. She had a number of complaints from old silver fillings which annoyed her to old crowns that just never felt right. After a Complete Exam, we designed a plan together that included replacing the old crowns and fillings with new crowns and porcelain onlays. What’s the difference you ask? Crowns cover the whole tooth down to and in many cases below the gum level. It is the classic way to protect a tooth that is in danger of breaking. A porcelain onlay accomplishes the same protection while preserving as much healthy tooth structure as possible. It is a much more conservative approach that is healthier for the gum as well as much less likely to develop decay years down the road. It is a great example of high tech dentistry in the 21rst century!
Originally, Renee and I agreed to tackle a couple of teeth a year until they would all be treated. But then she found out that she was being transferred to another city and decided that she wanted to finish all the work before she left. So there we were, treating 8 teeth at the same time,a technical challenge to be sure – especially at the impression stage. But wait- we were able to use our newest piece of technology, the digital impression machine. Instead of a tray full of goop that gags the patient and tastes bad, this machine uses a wand to digitally scan the teeth and send the information via the computer straight to the lab that will be making the crowns/ onlays. It is not only more comfortable and quicker but is more precise as well. This precision translates to better fitting onlays with less adjustments needed for them to mesh properly with the other teeth.
Let me put it another way. When Renee came in last week for us to put in the final work (4 all porcelain crowns and 4 all porcelain onlays) I had scheduled 4 hours of time because there can be a lot of necessary fitting and adjusting before they can all be cemented in. But because of the digital impression machine partnering with a superior lab (Thompson Suburban Laboratory here in Baltimore- www.thompsonsuburban.com) I was able to finish cementing all 8 teeth in less than 3 hours. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no rush; but using the best materials and the most meticulous labs provides a level of work that fits immediately and feels comfortable due to perfect meshing and looks completely natural and life like.
This is dentistry at the highest level and its what we do every day. It makes my job so enjoyable and enables patients like Renee to achieve dental health and stability while getting a beautiful smile at the same time.