The technology that allows dentists to accurately record dental images into digital information has transformed our ability to analyze, diagnose, measure, and treat dental conditions at a level that was never possible before. The standardization of these records allows for digital files to be transferred and archived without the loss of quality. This means that dental care can be better coordinated with specialists and referring doctors.
The ability to be able to refer back to a photograph or radiograph that may have been recorded years before with a click of a button, can lend a clue to the severity and susceptibility of an area of concern and influence the treatment that is best for an individual. Dr. Finlay recognized the value of this information and has utilized this technology in his practice since 1995.
Digital dental imaging is essentially utilized in two formats: photographs and radiographs.
In the past, radiographs were a film-based technology that captured an image on a transparent sheet of plastic that was then processed by a developer, fixing the image on the film much the way a photograph is created. The consistency, durability, and quality of these images were dependent upon the temperature and freshness of the chemicals used to process the image.
The images were subject to deterioration over time and were difficult to duplicate with any level of quality. Digital radiographs utilize significantly lower exposures to radiation and create an image that is far more versatile.
The dentist can view the images on the computer monitor and modify the images with software that allows the doctor to diagnose and discover issues at their earliest stages. These images can be e-mailed or shared within a team of doctors, which can facilitate “virtual consultations” to ensure the best possible care for the patient. Most recently, with the advent of iCat radiographic imaging, the computer can create an incredible 3-dimensional image of the skull that can be used in the treatment planning and placement of dental implants with accuracy and predictability that was never before possible.
The technology of digital photographs is around us every day, from our personal use cameras to our cell phones. In dentistry, particularly cosmetic dentistry, the value is irreplaceable. Photographs from repeatable angles can provide a comparison from which we can measure and evaluate changes in dental health: wear, tooth movement, recession, and general deterioration. In cosmetic dentistry the diagnostic power is fascinating.
With cosmetic dental imaging software, both the doctor and the patient can have a window into the future in discovering what changes to an individual’s smile will look like. Dr. Finlay was the first in the greater Annapolis area to utilize this in-house technology in daily practice. Through simulations, Dr. Finlay and his team can morph into a patient’s smile the virtual changes before any treatment is initiated!
This is very often the first step in the design process of creating a new smile. It can be very instrumental to the patient feeling comfortable about what impact a new smile will have on their appearance. What is important to remember, however, is that although this creates a vision of where anticipated treatment will take us and creates a greater ability for communication between the doctor and the patient, it does not guarantee the final results.
It is critical to realize that the simulations are a 2-dimension representation of a 3-dimensional situation and that the final design and results are more related to health and function. Once our goals are established through an analysis of these images, a diagnostic wax-up of stone models of the patient’s actual teeth is accomplished.
This creates a 3-dimensional prototype and architectural plans to guide the anticipated treatment. This important, but occasionally overlooked, design criteria can be the reason why cosmetic dental treatments can fail. Dr. Finlay’s experience has taught him that proper planning helps to ensure a predictable result.