The digital practice is the key to success

By Dr Bernd Reiss
March 14, 2019

MALSCH, Germany: A concern regarding digitalisation is that it is linked to the risk of important professional disciplines losing significance in the public perception. The daily routine of a dentist is characterised by a variety of different challenges and tasks. From initial diagnosis to therapy planning, the concrete realisation still remains in the hands of the dentist. In the face of the omnipresent issue of digitalisation, the necessary manual dexterity is increasingly pushed to the background, and yet, it is among the most vital prerequisites for quality and sustainable dental care. In dental practice, there are some key areas that are gaining increasing importance: periodontics, implant dentistry, functional therapy, aesthetic dentistry, holistic dentistry, sports dentistry, the list goes on.

Considering the manifold prerequisites, digitalisation is as versatile as its various fields of application. In the field of diagnostics, the main focus is on imaging procedures. There are many exciting developments to be expected in this field this year. In CBCT systems, the radiation exposure levels continue to drop on the one hand, and digital algorithms have increased imaging quality, on the other hand, resulting in better interpretation of the images as a consequence. When it comes to MRI, there will probably be new exciting advancements as well.

However, all eyes will most likely be on the advancements made in the field of aesthetic dentistry. Virtual reality is already an integral part of the new media and it continues to have a strong influence on dental practice too. The visualisation of a possible treatment outcome of a prosthetic treatment goes beyond the depiction of schematic case studies and includes actual clinical results. Moreover, augmented reality will bring new possibilities of communicating with a patient. In addition, it can be considered a new tool for the professional exchange with the dental technician. Making therapy decisions, such as the choice between a resin restoration, veneer, crown or implant restoration, will become easier as well.

The most influential developments are to be expected in the area of orthodontics, however. In this discipline in particular, the borders between therapy planning and subsequent therapy are blurred, which is due to an ongoing increase in the application of aligners. When it comes to implant dentistry, digital procedures are already well established: backward planning, superimposition of digital impressions and CBCT data, surgical guides and individualised abutments, which are not only used for definitive restorations, but as customised healing abutments as well— just to name a few examples of exciting therapy-improving approaches in the field of implant dentistry. In the area of CAD/CAM technologies, interesting trends were experienced already at IDS 2017: not just digital impression-taking, but the entire digital workflow up to the finished restoration are already integral parts of many treatments.

In some cases, “impression-free” practice as a dogma might come with certain risks, as conventional plastic impression-taking is superior, not only when it comes to functional impressions for complete prostheses, but for many other speciality applications as well. Considering digital impressions and the resulting digital models, however, there are entirely new approaches and possibilities for prosthetics and orthodontics: relatively simple analytic procedures allow for the visualisation of clinical situations in dimensions relevant to the dentist. The course of recessions can not only be predicted and calculated, but can be measured metrically as well. In the case of the increasing prevalence of erosions and abrasions, active and stable phases of loss of substance can be identified and quantified. The possibility of easily and precisely monitoring progress creates completely new opportunities for the dentist. This applies to both therapy decisions, as well as the vital maintenance phase after a dental therapy.

For decades now, the DGCZ has been supporting dentists from all disciplines, computer applications being relevant to all professional disciplines. Science-based, application-oriented (owing to the efforts of numerous colleagues) and practical assistance: the DGCZ keeps dentists updated in collaboration with the Digital Dental Academy (DDA) Berlin. One thing is certain: a dentist who wants to remain successful in an always-changing environment has to take up the challenges of the digital world with competence and confidence.

1 Comment

  • Darrell Pruitt says:

    Nice article, Dr Bernd Reiss. Lots of promise, one concern: When a patient asks if digital dental records are more secure than the paper records they replace, how should a dentist respond?

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