Four Important Advances In Dentistry

Posted on: 29 December 2014


Several decades ago, many visits to the dentist were painful and rather unpleasant. Pain management techniques were primitive, the drills dentists used produced a lot more vibration, and dental surgery procedures were not as safe or effective as they are today. Luckily, dental care has come a long way in the last 40 years. Now, most procedures are safe, effective, and relatively pain-free. No longer is there a reason to fear going to the dentist. Here is a look at four advances which have notably improved dental care.

The Development of Dental Implant Surgeries

In the past, patients with a missing tooth were often fitted with bridges. A bridge is a false tooth that attaches to the surrounding teeth. Although dental bridges do solve some of the problems of missing teeth -- they keep the surrounding teeth from shifting and they provide a chewing surface -- they also lead to some problems. Since they don't extend below the gums, they allow the roots of surrounding teeth to shift. They also put strain on the surrounding teeth, which may lead to cracked or misaligned teeth.

Most dentists now prefer to use dental implants rather than bridges to replace most missing teeth. Implants extend below the surface of the gums, replacing both the tooth root and the crown. They are surgically inserted and lead to fewer side effects than bridges. Most implants last a lifetime, and once in place, they look and feel exactly like a natural tooth.

Better Local Anesthesia Medications

Novocaine was once the local anesthetic of choice for dental procedures. However, it led to allergic reactions and unpleasant side effects, such as nausea, in many patients. While some dentists still refer to the local anesthetics that they inject into patients' gums as "novocaine" because patients are familiar with this terminology, this substance has been largely replaced by much safer alternatives such as lidocaine. Novocaine has not been widely used since the 1980s.

Pain-Free Cosmetic Dental Procedures

Not long ago, if a patient had an unsightly chipped tooth, a dentist could attempt to fill it or file down the surface to make the chip less obvious. Such procedures often maintained the functionality of the tooth, but did not do much to improve its appearance. Crooked teeth were placed back in alignment with metal braces, which had to be worn for up to three years and often led to jaw aches and raw gums.

Luckily, today's cosmetic dental procedures are a lot less painful. Invisible aligners, which gently press crooked teeth back into alignment, can be used instead of braces in many cases. Chipped or discolored teeth, and teeth with gaps between them, can simply be covered with porcelain veneers. Veneers are thin sheets of porcelain that are fixed to the tooth's front surface to camouflage its appearance. They're painless to apply.

Better Dental Drills and Decay Removal Techniques

Even though dentists have long been numbing patients' teeth before drilling cavities, the vibrating sensation of the drill against tooth material is still unpleasant. Newer dental drills vibrate a lot less than those used several decades ago. Even these drills create some unpleasant vibration, however, and so technologies are being developed to replace drilling all-together. Some dentists are now using lasers instead of drills to remove decayed tooth tissue. Others use very powerful, targeted streams of water. Both of these new innovations help reduce anxiety and discomfort in patients who are uncomfortable with traditional dental drills. They may also reduce the need for anesthesia, since they cause less pain than drilling.

Dentistry at sites like continues to evolve over the years, leading to less painful and more effective procedures to help patients keep their teeth looking and feeling their best. Gone are the days when a trip to the dentist was to be feared -- now, most dental visits are pleasant, pain-free, and followed by fewer side effects.