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Digital dentistry advances at UI

BY LILY ABROMEIT | APRIL 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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Kaitlin Hoogezeen is ahead of the curve.

The third-year student in the University of Iowa’s College of Dentistry has had firsthand experience working with the technology that has crept next to dentist chairs, tools, and fluoride to provide better and more efficient patient care across the nation.

“In private practice, obviously, technology is a huge marketing thing because patients want the newest, greatest stuff, so the fact that you have experience on it … [and] it won’t be the first time you’ve done it [is helpful],” she said. “We’re kind of on the edge of going completely digital.”

As the use technology in dentist offices grow, the University of Iowa College of Dentistry has kept up with the trend.

“Everything is growing and changing constantly at a really rapid rate,” said Michael Kanellis, the associate dean for patient care in the dental school. “It means improved oral-health outcomes for patients, and just increasing better patient care, and advancement in dentistry.”

Although the UI has had advanced technology for a few years, the benefits are visible and increasing.

Fred Joyal, founder of 1-800-Dentists, a nationwide referral service, said digital radiology, computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing — or CAD/CAM, as well as 3D Cone Beam technology are increasing in popularity in dental offices across the nation.

“Technology is becoming an ongoing expense for dentists,” he said. “Visual radiology will eventually be with everyone, the CAD/CAM will most likely, in one form or another, be in every practice [and] the Cone Beam technology is more important for surgery … but further into the future, most practices will have it.”

Kanellis said the dental school uses all three forms.

“We want to make sure our students are getting the best education possible, and we also want to make sure that it’s done in a structured way so we’re not starting with technology that’s outdated,” he said. “We’re aggressive to some extent but also really careful.”

David Gratton, a UI associate professor of dentistry, said all of the technology is simply to increase patient-care practices.

“[They] will provide them with treatment that will be shorter in duration and … will make their appointments more comfortable when they’re at the dentist,” he said.

The digital radiography switches X-rays from film to digital, reducing the radiation approximately 70 to 80 percent. CAD/CAM allows a crown to be created within 10 minutes of a scan, which allows for same-day treatment.

Cone Beam scanning lets dentists take a 3D scan of the patient. This enables them to be able to see more than just teeth, including nerve endings and tissue.

“Consumers are aware that this technology is there, and people are living longer and longer, so to preserve their teeth for a lifetime is much more involved and requires more technology,” Joyal said. “And also with the sharing and storing of information, digital is always better for dentistry.”

In the dental school, Kanellis said, it is about more than just the newest equipment.

“Technology in and of itself isn’t the goal — it’s improvement of patient care,” he said. ”These are the future dentists of Iowa and the nation, so we want to make sure they’re getting the best education.”
Gratton said the benefits are substantial for the students.

“They can evaluate their work by themselves…[and] it gives them objective feedback … [and] it allows them to develop the proper hand skills quicker and more efficiently,” he said. “The whole industry … is going to digital, so they need to know how to interface.”


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