Austin Smile Center
Dentistry has changed a lot since I was a kid. Austin Smile Center was one of the first dental offices in Austin with a computerized xray system. This is a cool setup because it drastically cuts down on the amount of radiation that a patient receives from their routine xray series. Just like your camera can take photos in low light conditions, our xray sensors can take xrays in low "x-ray" conditions. We turn the xray machine pretty much as low as it can go, and we allow the computer to analyze the signal and to create an beautiful looking xray. We can get a whole set of 18 xrays with less radiation than two of the old style xrays. You probably receive more daily radiation from the sun, or even your TV set!
My next favorite piece of equipment is my Diagnodent laser cavity detector by KAVO. This machine shines a mild laser into the tooth, and it measures how much of that energy is reflected back out of the tooth. A tooth with hidden decay is going to absorb more laser energy that a white, healthy tooth. Single digit readings are awesome! and even teens are pretty good. The Kavo guys want me to start filling teeth at around a reading of 20, but I soon discovered that there wasn't much decay in those teeth. My personal cutoff is around 30. I can always find decay right at the edge of the dentin (the soft part of the tooth) when the measurement approaches 30.
I have seen new patients that come from other dental offices that haven't had a cavity in years, and then I put the laser on their tooth and find one or two teeth with moderate or even heavy decay. The Diagnodent is a way to detect cavities that cannot be detected in the usual conventional ways. Xrays work great for detecting cavities in between teeth, but xrays have a hard time focusing on a small cavity in the pits or grooves of our molars. Also, many people have hard enamel and our sharp, pointy instruments cannot "stick" in the decayed grooves. Some people have teeth with grooves so deep that our sharp, pointy instruments can't even reach the decay. I firmly believe that my Diagnodent has probably saved dozens of patients from needing root canal therapy on one or more of their teeth!
My next favorite "toy" is my intraoral camera. This is a small camera that can take photos of the teeth up close. With this camera, I can see teeth 20X their actual size. I can also use the light in the camera to shine through the enamel to look for cracks that can't normally be seen using overhead operatory lights. The photos I take can be sent to your insurance company so that the "adjusters" can see what I'm seeing. This allows us to get the benefits you need to fix your tooth.
Sometimes I'll use my intraoral camera to take a photo essay of all the molars so I can compare them to what I see years later. This allows me to document wear and tear that might otherwise go unnoticed. I can also photograph suspicious bumps in the mouth to see if there's been any change in size or color at later appointments. This might save you a trip to the oral surgeon for a soft tissue biopsy.
Ain't technology grand?