News & Press
John C. Chao, D.D.S., M.A.G.D
Faculty, USC School of Dentistry
10 Latest "Impossible" Surprises in Dentistry
1. Root Canal Treatment can be painless. Yes, it can be, if it is done in a caring, careful manner using the latest and best technology in anesthesia. By caring, it is meant that the dental environment, the staff and the doctor reflect the confident, sincere, caring attitude that can quickly relieve the patient's anxieties and gain the patient's complete trust. Then, by using the latest in "painless techniques," the patient can experience an entirely new painless experience. Yes, even the injection can be invisible and painless. After the injection the patient will often say something like, "What was that?" "Did you just give me a shot?" By seeing your dentist regularly, hopefully you won't need a "root canal." But if you do, don't worry and don't postpone it. It won't hurt.
2. Fillings don't have to be done with shots and drills. Small or medium size cavities can be cleaned with "air abrasion" technology. Under a surgical microscope, the cavity is located and painlessly air-brushed with a miniaturized nozzle emitting a fine stream of powder. This is painlessly done and many cavities can be filled at the same time. This method is especially good when cavities are not deep. The cavities are filled with hard, durable composite fillings made of ceramic particles filled with resins. The fillings are tooth-colored and are practically invisible.<
3. You don't have to undergo "gum surgery" to treat advanced gum disease. Adults lose teeth mostly because of advanced gum disease. "Plaque" deposits under the gum lead to infection and inflammation in susceptible patients (who have a genetic predisposition for this disease). Bone loss results and eventually the teeth loosen and are lost. Gum surgery allows the surgeon to "reflect" the gums away from the root so that plaque can be thoroughly removed. New technology, called dental endoscopy, allows the dentist to see under the gum with a miniaturized fibro-optic camera that directs the ultrasonic instruments to vibrate away the plaque. The removal of plaque in this manner averts surgery and produces the same results as surgery, but without the downsides, which is pain, bleeding and swelling and occasional complications such as post-operative infections.
4. Even loose teeth can be saved. When teeth are visibly loose, teeth are often extracted and replaced with dentures, bridges or implants. Traditionally there are methods to save loose and mobile teeth. These methods include "splinting," which calls for tying the loose teeth to the normal teeth with hidden braces, and thorough non-surgical gum treatment (See above paragraph on endoscopy). So you don't have to lose your teeth even if they are loose.
5. You can get a crown done in one appointment without "impressions." Before the advent of CAD-CAM technology, the only way a crown could be done is for the dentist to remove the decay by "prepping" the tooth, take impressions of the teeth and sending the impression to the laboratory where technicians make the crown. The process generally takes two to three weeks. In the meantime, the patient wears a temporary crown. On the return visit, the tooth is usually numbed up again and the crown is fitted and "cemented" onto the tooth, if everything goes well. If not, the crown is returned to the lab and the temporary crown is placed back onto the tooth until the next visit. With the new CAD-CAM computer, your doctor takes an optical 3-D image of your teeth a special camera, creates a tooth for you with the computer, and then directs the computer to mill out a new tooth out of a block of pure porcelain. There would be no human error and the fit is consistently precise and accurate. All this is done in one visit, and no more than two hours in most cases.
6. You don’t have to wait for X-rays to be processed by a machine. Digital x-rays are instantly projected onto the computer monitor in front of where you are sitting. You no longer have to look at a tiny spot on a small dental film to see what the dentist is talking about. Now the image is 40 times the size of the film and you can see what the doctor sees. Besides, these images can be enhanced by color and texture so that you can see the “pathology” also.
7. MRI-like 3-D imaging has come to dentistry. A select number of dental offices are using 3-D Scans to image teeth, bone, gum, nerve, root formation, blood vessels and sinuses in appropriate situations, such as implant placement, root canal treatment and gum treatment. 3-D Scan allows the dentist to see and measure accurately (up to .1 millimeter or 256th of an inch). This information can lead to better diagnosis and more alternatives in treatment. Additionally, complications are avoided through the use of this diagnostic advancement.
8. Denture patients can have a virtual face-lift when they have new dentures that are anchored to mini-dental implants. Yes, mini-dental implants, which are miniaturized implants, can be placed in a short time without surgery and stitching. Then dentures can be constructed in a few hours that would lock on to these mini-implants. These dentures are so tightly secured onto the mini-implants that the patient will have a hard time removing them in the beginning. Because the dentures are locked onto implants, special cosmetic enhancements are now possible. The bite and the arrangement of the teeth can virtually duplicate that of the idealized originals. The effect is a virtual facelift...all done in one day.
9. Test-Drive Veneers™ invented by this columnist, can be placed onto the front teeth in three minutes or less to give the patient a test-drive experience of what it would be like to have a new, great smile. Up until this innovation was configured by the author, you could only try out veneers if they are made up by a laboratory first. This entailed one appointment for impressions for the lab tech to fabricate temporary veneers, a second appointment would be needed to try out these temporaries. Test-Drive Veneers™ combine art and technology to adapt new, beautiful veneers to your teeth in a matter of 3 minutes or less. They look shiny and real to begin with. But they can be changed, moved or altered in color to suit the preferences of the patient. The patient can realistically anticipate the final result by seeing the virtual result. Most of the time, the final veneers are much more stunning than the temporaries. You have a lot to look forward to..., like having a great, magnetic smile for the rest of your life.
10. If one tooth looks longer than the others because the gums has receded, gum repair can now be done in 30 minutes or less through a tiny "pinhole" without cutting or stitching. This "instant," virtually painless procedure has been invented and patented by the author. The International Journal of Periodontics and Restorative Dentistry, a highly respected, peer-review dental journal, will publish this innovative method, called Pinhole Surgical Technique®, in its October, 2012, issue. Prominent figures in the dental profession have described this new method as "a major breakthrough" in the field of gum regeneration. So if you have a "long tooth" that shows in your smile, you can have that long-tooth look repaired in 30 minutes or less.
Dr. John Chao is well known as an authority on dentistry throughout Southern California. He is the host of Smile Talk, a popular radio talk show on KFWB 980 AM, airing 7-8 p.m. on Sundays. He is a lecturer and clinical instructor at the Ostrow of Dentistry of USC in the Community Dentistry Division, teaching on the subjects of pain and anxiety management, ethics and professionalism. For his work at USC, he has been named "Outstanding Part-time Faculty for 2012." As the inventor of the "Pinhole Surgical Technique®", he uses his office in Alhambra as an educational center for interested dentists from the US and other countries. For questions, comments or information, contact Dr. Chao at ChickensWelcome.com, or 626-308-9104.