Dentist or Detective? Using Intraoral Cameras to Solve Problems

We can tell a lot just by taking a look around your mouth while you are sitting in our chair. But sometimes, we need to take a closer look at your teeth to get to the root of a problem you may be experiencing. X-rays are most commonly used to help us to find issues that can’t be seen with a visual exam. While these images do provide valuable information, they don’t show everything that’s going on in your mouth. Plus, they aren’t always the easiest images to help explain what might be causing an issue. That’s why you might see Dr. Brunacini or Dr. Karagiorgos using an intraoral camera.

What is an Intraoral Camera?

An intraoral cameral is a tiny digital camera that takes pictures of hard-to-reach areas in your mouth. Our intraoral cameras look similar to a pen and are equipped with a tiny lens on the end. During an examination, the camera is moved throughout the inside of the mouth, allowing us to see detailed images of the surfaces of your teeth, gum conditions, and other tiny details about tissues, cavities, etc. The camera also captures clear video and images of corroded or tarnished fillings, hairline fractures, bleeding gums, plaque, and other problems. To our patients’ delight, the camera is painless and can be used while you are sitting comfortably in the dental chair.

How do Intraoral Cameras work?

The first intraoral cameras were introduced back in the late 1980s and required a lot of bulky technology. Images were saved to a floppy disc and videos were saved to film and had to be viewed in a VHS player. Over the years, the design changed drastically allowing for improved function with significantly smaller equipment. Today’s intraoral cameras are connected directly to a computer and the images it can immediately be viewed by both the dentist and the patient in real time. These images can then be examined in-depth for a better diagnosis and stored for future reference.

Why do we use Intraoral Cameras?

Intraoral cameras offer numerous benefits to the patient. Dr. Karagiorgos explains it like this: “Showing our patients photographs of what we are looking at in their mouths is a great way to communicate ideas about conditions or possible treatments. Photography becomes a great tool in our toolbox to engage patients so that they feel more included in the decision-making process. It lets the patient see with their own eyes and helps make what might sound complicated much easier to understand.”

With the video and images captured by the camera, we are able to give you a better look at a particular diagnosis and to help you understand a treatment plan more completely. Instead of just explaining to you what might be happening in your mouth, we are able to show you exactly what is going on. In many cases, an issue might not present with tangible symptoms. For example, you might not have any pain in a back molar, but the intraoral camera might discover a fractured tooth. The cameras are also useful in the tooth restoration process, allowing you to see the before and after pictures of your treatment.

No matter the issue, the intraoral camera helps you make treatment decisions with confidence. Want to learn more? Let us show you what the camera looks like at your next visit! Call us at (207) 781-5900 to schedule your appointment today.

3D Printing and Dentistry

You’ve probably heard about 3D printing, but did you know that this technology is applicable to dentistry? Though it seems to have emerged straight from the pages of your favorite cyberpunk novel, it seems that digitally created implants may be in the cards for future dentists and healthcare professionals.

3D printing has also come to be known as additive manufacturing, which means that digital 3D models are turned into solid objects by building up layers of a certain material (matching the parameters of the digital model) to create a real life object!

Though the technology was first introduced as the natural next step after 2D printing on paper, it has quickly evolved into a game-changing manufacturing technology. So far industries including but not limited to aerospace, defense, and art and design have adopted the technology for a variety of uses. Though it’s not definite when or to what degree 3D printing might be adopted by the dental industry, there is great potential for patients’ dental needs to be fulfilled quickly and locally using this technology.

Most dentists would agree: every person’s mouth is unique. This is the main reason why 3D printing could be massively successful in dentistry. Crowns, bridges, retainers, splints, dentures, and surgical guides and instruments, all require some level of custom work to match each patient’s mouth.

“I love the idea of 3D printing as there are many ways for it to be used in dentistry,” Dr. Brian Brunacini commented. “Whether it involves a metal framework for a partial denture or making a crown, the technology can only help.  As dentistry goes digital, the impressions we take are so accurate that having a perfect fit is easily accomplished, which reduces costs and the amount of time required for each fitting.”

Digital x-rays as well as scans and models have already begun to “digitalize” dentistry work systems. These systems are becoming increasingly commonplace. In fact, you may have already encountered 3D printing in dentistry, though you might not realize it: Invisalign utilizes 3D modeling and printing technology in the creation of their products.

Despite initial barriers as 3D printing tried to gain a foothold in the industry, it seems that further technological advances are removing issues like high cost, software unreliability, and material limitations. With the introduction of desktop 3D printers, the cost of professional 3D printers has dropped substantially. Desktop and large-scale printers alike have been able to perform accurately in a clinical setting. In particular, the usability and relative low cost of desktop models have made the technology accessible for dental firms of every size.

As more 3D printers, software, and materials continue to be released, the industry continues to change. 3D printing is already possible with pure metals, metal alloys, thermoplastics and thermoplastic composites, ceramics, and edible food materials. Materials can also be formulated to take on different textures. As one example, gum tissue can be replicated with materials that have a rubbery texture. The most important factor in assessing materials is the quality of the final printed product.

Each year, more and more materials are released in accordance with FDA regulation. Soon, companies will release biocompatible materials that will be compatible with certain printers models. This development will further expand the potential of the technology, and would result in printers being able to create custom dental implants, like crowns or bridges, right there in the office.

Dr. Brunacini offered his perspective on the future of this technology. “There are still a lot of hurdles ahead for 3D printing in dentistry,” he stated. “Something to keep in mind along the way is that the art of dentistry is very important to as well, and that art could be lost with machines fabricating a crown.”

Whatever is in store for 3D printing and dentistry, you can rest assured that you’re able to rely on the care and craftsmanship of your trusted team at Falmouth Dental Arts. Interested in dental technology and how it has evolved over the years? Let’s talk more at your next appointment!

Will root canals become a thing of the past?

We’re pretty approachable here at Falmouth Dental Arts, and yet, we know and appreciate that a trip to the dentist may not be exactly what some of you have in mind as ‘fun.’ This is certainly the case when and if a root canal comes into the picture, but the future is looking bright in that regard: a recent breakthrough has many people thinking (and hoping) that root canals may become a thing of the past, thanks to stem cells.

Over the past year, regenerative dental fillings have generated much scientific attention. Researchers from the University of Nottingham and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute have found that fillings utilizing stem cells could change the future of root canal procedures for the better, by stimulating teeth to repair and regenerate their own damaged tissues.

What role do stem cells play in this process? Stem cells are undifferentiated (aka non-specialized) cells that are capable of transforming into different cells. Stem cells have been utilized in other regenerative therapies that have developed over the past several years. To date, most applications of stem cells in the health industry involve repair of diseased and/or injured tissues.

It’s technology that could change many people’s lives. For those who don’t know about root canals, they can be intimidating experiences for some patients because the root canal – also referred to as the pulp – and the nerve of a tooth are removed due to extensive tissue damage. Usually the damage is from a prior cavity in the region that spread beyond the enamel into the tissue below. Removal of a tooth’s pulp and nerve also dramatically weakens the tooth, and might require further dental work like crowns or caps to reinforce the tooth. Additionally, materials inserted into fillings as a result of cavities or root canals are also often toxic to cells. Regenerative fillings would hypothetically negate all these risks, and would not require invasive procedures.

Our own Dr. Brian Brunacini shared his thoughts on the potential of the technology. “In dentistry, we are always searching for ways to make the experience as non-invasive and comfortable as possible.  It is exciting to see new treatment modalities coming out in dentistry. Regenerative dentistry would be a complete paradigm shift in how teeth are repaired.”

During initial tests, regenerative fillings successfully stimulated the development of dentin, the tissue that makes up the tooth below the visible white enamel. Theoretically, injecting these stem cell-powered biomaterials into a damaged tooth would prompt the cells to regenerate dentin in their natural environment, right where it’s needed the most. This could mean that in the future a damaged tooth could heal itself!

As supporters of holistic and integrative dentistry, we’re excited about this breakthrough. We’ll have to curb our enthusiasm for now: regenerative fillings are only in the initial stages of research and much must be done to develop the treatment before it’s ready for use on humans. The research is promising however: regenerative fillings received second place in the materials category of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Technologies Competition in 2016.

This development could mean a great deal to dental patients who require fillings and root canals across the globe. Are you curious about the prospect of regenerative dental fillings? Call and talk with us about them, or let’s chat at your next appointment.

Our Commitment to Education and Cutting Edge Technology

Dentistry has changed quite a bit over the past twenty years, most notably in the new forms of technology available to dentist offices. Things like digital x-rays, water cooled electric drills, lasers and even the use of microscopes have given us the opportunity to offer more effective treatments to our patients.

Because of the rapid changes in technology, the team at Falmouth Dental Arts puts a strong focus on continuing education for the entire staff. It is something we really take pride in and get excited about! Can you believe that the combined years of experience of our staff is 275?! Most recently, our hygiene team attended a class on dealing with gluten intolerance, sensitivity and celiac disease. In January, we took courses on periodontal disease diagnosis.

Our main focus is on the prevention of future dental problems with the use of fluorides and sealants on children. We also recognize that many of our patients are interested in the cosmetic treatments available to them, such as teeth whitening, veneers and orthodontics. With the new sleep apnea devices (can we link this to the sleep apnea page?) that are now available, we can even treat sleeping disorders with a custom fit mouthpiece.

Technology is changing dentistry, and we are committed to having the knowledge, education and training needed to deliver these new advances to our patients.