New Tech to Look for from the Dentist's Chair




Top-turbine, air compression, foot controls, touchpads and auto vacuum systems. NASCAR? Space travel? Time machine? Nope. Dentistry.

More specifically, dentistry equipment and tools, and the new ways they are being designed and engineered.

The mind wanders sitting in the dentist chair and so does the discussion. For instance, on a recent visit my dentist argued that Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t deserve his Oscar. 

Two things: It’s hard to answer when there’s a metal pick in your mouth and, honestly, who’s going to argue with their dentist?

[Ed. You can read more about PTC customers, their industries, and the remarkable engineering challenges they conquer every day by visiting our Case Studies page.]

So, instead of explaining how wrong he is, I tried to take in the tools in the room. Much has changed in the last decade. Here are just a few examples.

LED lighting

Look up. Those old halogen overhead lights are being swapped out for LEDs, which can project different mixes of color and a crisper light pattern. Plus they’re more efficient.

Meanwhile, those blue lights that dentists use to “cure” your filling now work with LEDs too (they also used to be halogen).   LEDs are cooler, so you don’t need a fan to keep the system from overheating. They use less energy, too. In fact, you can run them off a rechargeable battery.  That means, the device is now smaller and lighter, making it much more comfortable and easier to use.

And if you’re looking for speed, new high-power LEDs can finish your cavity in a lot less time than older models. This means less time in the chair. Which is a good thing.

And lasers too

According to WebMD, dentists are now enlisting diode lasers to find decay. In the past, they would poke around with a sharp instrument until they felt a sticky spot. Not very precise... But with the diode lasers, the device senses decay based on how reflective the surface is. So, dentists can see problems, instead of feel for them.

Design

I never thought I’d say this about a dentist chair but some of the newer models not only look like something from a sci-fi movie, they’re engineered for top-notch performance and are more comfortable than most home furniture.

Dentists have the option of starting with a basic chair then adding features like touchpads, foot controls, lights and monitors. With ancillary integration, dentists can evolve the chair over time, adding new integrated clinical devices as the needs of their practices’ grow. No doubt, all engineered by someone that has spent too much time in one.

If you can’t remember what the chairs were like before, take a look at this video (and try to muffle your screams):

Apps get into the action (of course)

Did someone say mobile app? Okay, so it’s not a tool or equipment but it still illustrates how a trip to the dentist is becoming easier. One mobile app on the market lets patients see open appointments and schedule them, has previous appointments and medical records listed, and makes it easier for patients to keep track of upcoming appointments.

Meanwhile another tool lets dentists and technicians read and share 2D and 3D x-rays on their iPads. These images can be used for showing patients and consulting with colleagues away from the office all without having to break out larger screening equipment.

Drill hand pieces

Of course the place we most want to see innovation is with that dental drill. The common hand piece, driven by compressed air, comes in slow high torque models or lighter high speed models, with a huge selection of drill bits, or rather, burrs .

PTC Creo customer Brasseler in Germany has been innovating dental instruments like these for 40 years. For example, they make  a hand piece so powerful that sounds like it could cut open a metal box – at the same time it’s lightweight, has a fiber optic light, quick disconnect swivel, and ceramic ball bearings. Tough but gentle, that’s what you want removing your decay. Here’s a look at their L-Series:

PTC helps Brasseler by providing the CAD, CAM, and data management software they need to keep their process chain tight and efficient. “PTC Creo enabled us to develop an optimized closed process chain from 3D product development to manufacturing,” says Mr. Reinhard Holscher, CEO. “We achieved substantial savings.”

Next time you’re squirming in the dentist’s chair remind yourself that technology and the engineering behind that technology is rapidly changing – which, with luck, will continue to make your visits shorter and more comfortable. (And, don’t tell my dentist, but I’m glad Leonardo won.)

[Ed. You can read more about PTC customers, their industries, and the remarkable engineering challenges they conquer every day by visiting our Case Studies page.]