We bring you our sixth Top Dentists list to show you which trusted professionals local dentists recommend. Like our annual Top Docs list, it’s a guide to outstanding Twin Cities dentists, as selected by their peers. Follow the link below and you’ll find a list of great general dentists as well as those in multiple specialties, from orthodontics to prosthodontics. But first, we take a look at how dentists are using the latest technology to make office visits faster, more comfortable, and more convenient. No need to put off that appointment any longer. Click here to see our full list of 2012's Top Dentists!
Three Innovations in General Dentistry
A crown in one visit, instant X-ray results, sedation for longer procedures. Trips to the dentist have changed dramatically since you were a kid.
1) Quick Crowns
Getting a crown used to be a taxing, time-consuming process. First you had to go in to get fitted for a crown. Then you had to make a separate trip to get the crown put in. Those days are over. Thanks to CAD/CAM technology (computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing), it only takes one trip. Dentists use the technology to take a digital image of the patient’s mouth. “That image goes into a computer program, and we get a virtual model,” says Steven Gorman of The Gorman Center for Fine Dentistry (pictured). “Then we can design the restoration right on the virtual model and send it to a milling machine. The milling machine creates the restoration out of a solid block of porcelain. It takes 10 minutes or less to mill. Then you bond the restoration in, and the patient is done.”
2) Digital X-rays
If you have dental pain, you may be wondering what’s going on inside your mouth. Dentists are happy to show you. Digital X-rays have several benefits for both dentists and patients. Digital X-rays emit a fraction of the radiation compared to traditional X-rays, which is good news for your health. It’s a faster process, because there’s no need to wait for film to develop. And the image quality is better. “In the past you had a small one- to two-inch X-ray to look at,” says Judson Heitner of Prairie Dental Group (pictured). “Now you can blow up the image on a screen. You can zoom in on areas to understand what’s happening.” An added bonus: The process is eco-friendly. “Everybody wants to be green these days, and dentists are no exception,” Heitner says. “We don’t have to use any of those harsh chemicals to develop X-rays anymore.”
Does the thought of sitting in a dentist chair for hours make you sweat? Loosen up. Many dentists are using sedation for lengthy procedures. The options include intravenous sedation or oral sedation in a pill form. “Conscious sedation helps patients relax,” Gorman says. “We’re not putting people into a deep sleep, but we are putting them into mild or sometimes moderate sedation. The biggest benefit is not being aware of time. Four hours often seems like two.”
Three Innovations in Specialized Dentistry
Technology is making it possible to replace, repair, and correct teeth with less damage to surrounding teeth, less time spent in the chair, and higher success rates.
1) Adhesive Restoration
If you’re self-conscious about the look of your teeth, you probably have considered cosmetic dentistry. But the thought of an invasive procedure may be holding you back. Take note: Cosmetic dentists are using new technology to preserve as much of your original tooth structure as possible. For example, adhesive dentistry is a method dentists use to bond adhesive material or cement to your natural teeth.
“Adhesive dentistry has become much more widely accepted, because it allows for more preservation of tooth structure,” says Nancy Norling of Nancy Norling, DDS (pictured). “Many of the older types of restorations would require more removal of tooth structure.” This approach isn’t as invasive as other procedures. For example, it’s better to correct a smile with veneers rather than full coverage crowns. “If we can offer a patient an adhesively placed restoration that returns their tooth to the proper form and function . . . we are offering them a great service,” Norling says.
2) Dental Implants
Replacing a lost tooth is a big deal, and no one wants to go through the procedure twice. Thankfully, there have been major improvements to the quality of dental implants in recent years.
“In the past, dental implants were done in many different designs, but there was a high rate of failure,” says Manuel Englander of Englander Dental (pictured). “Now companies have developed fantastic materials and designs that make the process significantly easier, not only for dentists but also for patients.”
New dental implants include a mix of titanium and other strong alloys. The screws connect to a porcelain crown that goes on top.
The implants have several benefits. First, they have minimal impact to your surrounding teeth. “In the past, you often had to damage teeth on either side in order to place an implant or bridge,” Englander says. “Now you don’t have to touch surrounding teeth.” Second, dental implants help maintain the bone structure beneath your teeth. Third, the implants are stronger and feel more natural than they did in the past. “You can replace a lost tooth with an implant that looks and feels just like a natural tooth,” Englander says.
3) Digital 3-D Models
So you want straight teeth, but you’re curious how they’ll look when the process is over? Your orthodontist can use digital models or 3-D images to show you. The technology allows patients to see what their teeth might look like after having braces or Invisalign trays.
“Previously, if we wanted to see how [patients’] teeth would look when they were done, we’d take a plaster mold,” says Michael Hoxie of Hultgren, Hoxie & Waki Orthodontics (pictured). “We’d use wax to reposition those plaster teeth to where we wanted them to go. It was very time intensive. But now we can do that on a computer.”
The orthodontist and the patient can look at the image together, reposition teeth, and decide what the best treatment method is. “It’s one thing for us to talk about what we can do, but it’s completely different when patients see their own teeth move into a new position,” Hoxie says. “They sort of light up when they see it.”