New techniques, materials improve dental office visits

Some people avoid dental treatment because of bad experiences they had in the past. An unpleasant incident can sometimes make a person stay away from dental care for many years. Over time and without care, teeth can break, become decayed and infected. Gum disease can erode bone in the jaw that supports the teeth, making them loose. Those who have not been to the dentist for a long time may not realize that today, a trip to the dentist is far better than it used to be. Dentists and their patients both benefit from new technology aimed at making treatment more tolerable, better looking, and longer lasting.

One of the most important changes in recent years is the improvement in local anesthesia, what the dentist uses in the injection to get their patient numb. The most common anesthetics used in dentistry now are lidocaine, bupivacaine, mepivacaine, septocaine and others. Articaine, a recently approved anesthetic, may be stronger than the other local anesthetics and allows most dental procedures to be performed painlessly. In an effort to reduce discomfort during dental procedures, today’s dentist can use either air abrasion or a dental laser. These modern devices enable dentists to treat many cavities without a needle or a dental drill. Some people may remember the unpleasant tasting material their dentist used to take an impression, or mold of their mouth. New impression materials are actually flavored, an important step to help improve the experience of many dental procedures.

Some people who have had “bondings” or tooth-colored fillings in the past may have been disappointed if they discolored. Tooth-colored fillings used today are much better able to match and blend in with the tooth. These newer fillings rarely discolor, and can create a realistic and cosmetic result that lasts for many years. The procedure that has benefited most from new technology is porcelain veneers. Porcelain veneers are custom-made porcelain wafers that the dentist places over the fronts of the teeth to enhance their appearance and repair damage. They can be used to improve a wide variety of cosmetic dental problems. They can whiten stained or discolored teeth, close gaps between teeth, “correct” a crooked smile without the need for braces, repair chips and imperfections, and create a more attractive or youthful looking smile. This new generation of porcelain veneers are beautiful and natural in appearance, durable, and do not change in color over time.

These are just a few of the advancements in dentistry over the last several years. Although the dental office is unlikely to make anyone’s list of favorite places, new techniques and materials vastly improve today’s trip to the dentist.