Mind and Body

Will Doctors Go the Way of 'Toll Booth Attendants' in The Future?

I just returned from a major CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) dental technology symposium put on by the Sirona and Patterson Dental Corporations this past weekend that "wowed" the large group of dentists in attendance. The system they unveiled was the latest CEREC AC, a nearly fully automated ceramic reconstruction system that can make beautiful tooth-colored crowns, fillings (inlays/onlays), or porcelain veneers while the patient is in the dental chair in a matter of minutes. It replaces messy impression materials, the dental laboratory, or that annoying visit back to the dentist after wearing a temporary crown that sometimes even comes off.

The dentist will simply prepare (file) the tooth into the proper shape and then place a wand-like "scanning device" and the computer takes over. Because of the conservative nature of this technology and the ability to not disturb the gum tissue many times less anesthesia, if any, is necessary. The comfort and convenience of this process for the patient and dentist is terrific. The result is an amazing, super-strong and aesthetic tooth restoration produced by a machine which has an intuitive "biogeneric" software which also "knows "what your new tooth should look like based on the other teeth in your mouth and its proper form and function (bite).

That's not all, Sirona also unveiled a new software that will integrate the Cerec AC with a CT scan machine of the jaw, called Galileos, for a 3-D guided CAD/CAM placement of dental implants to replace missing teeth in the mouth. The Cerec AC system will even communicate with other computers in a dental laboratory to solve larger and more time consuming restorative conditions. I became involved in CAD/CAM technology in dentistry as far back as 1991, having the first generation scanning/manufacturing machine (Cerec 1) that basically produced porcelain fillings in 1 visit for patients. It was very slow (appointments were often hours) and the technology was very labor intensive and driven by the dentist. Just as Apple's introduction of the i-phone was regarded by many as a "hip cell phone" until "The App Store" technology changed everything we could do, so did the evolution from Cerec 1 to this new fourth generation Cerec AC technology successfully do the same. I will be installing a Cerec AC machine in my dental practice next week and I started to wonder: Will technology like CEREC AC eventually replace the active role of many doctors in the same way that EZ-Passtechnology has replaced the formerly ubiquitous smiling toll booth attendant? Perhaps not yet but it is a brave new world and I am also reminded of "the soft droning voice" of the HAL 9000 computer in the movie 2001"A Space Odyssey."

Dr. Gerald P. Curatola is a renowned aesthetic dentist and pioneer in the emerging field of rejuvenation dentistry, which improves patients' overall health and appearance by integrating total wellness with cutting edge oral care and restorative procedures. In addition to his private practice, research, and work as a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU College of Dentistry, he is an internationally sought after speaker, author and expert who has been featured widely in print and broadcast media. For more information, go to rejuvenationdentistry.com.

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