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Digital Technology: What We Can Imagine vs. What Is Possible

Digital_Technology-imagin_vs_realityWalt Disney formed an interesting group of people many years ago and called them “Imagineers”; a name which in itself was a combination of imagination and engineering. As human beings we have this incredible gift to create things in our minds, things that currently are impossible but seem completely do-able.

With the advent of digital technology in dentistry, most of us have this view that we can do anything if we imagine it since we see so many things being accomplished in other industries. However, right now in dental, digital technology is still in its infancy. Current digital software is not available yet to do everything we have done in the analog past. Also, many of the materials, which are being used for digital processes outside of dentistry, are not approved by the FDA for oral use. This leaves dental manufacturers with large financial gambles to get materials through the FDA testing process and onto the market. Time constraints for the manufacture of an item is also still in play. For example, a maxillary hard night guard which requires the use of the palatal vault might be constructed from wax and packed acrylic or done in salt and pepper technique and completed in four to five hours. The same unit done digitally may take up to twelve hours of design, milling and processing time, in addition to the cost of a very expensive twenty-six millimeter thick puck. Although do-able, it may not yet be financially acceptable unless you can apply the volume factor, which allows for multiple machines and complete efficiency of use. Most laboratories are net yet there. Not that it is impossible; just not yet feasible. This transition will be a costly one, however so is all new technology in any industry. So my advice to you is: take part in digital technology where you can, learn all that you can and be ready to accept it as the future of dentistry.

The retiring dental classes of the late sixties and early seventies were just happy to see gold foil fillings leave the scene and never dreamed of all of this digital manufacture of restorations. To them all of this is still just a bit of a magical kingdom.

Disney understood though that unless it was imagined first, it could not be made reality. So as dental professionals we will continue to imagine what digital technology should be able to do for us and push for it, until the time that engineering makes it possible.

 

Craig Pickett, CDT, RG, TE

Craig A. Pickett is NBC certified in Crown & Bridge with Technologist designation. In 2014, Craig was the recipient of the NADL Excellence in Education Award.

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