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The end of all your teething troubles

With advances in dentistry, dental procedures are now more precise, quicker and cost-effective than before.

health Updated: Jun 11, 2017 07:37 IST
Dr Ajay Sharma, head of dental sciences at New Delhi’s Max Smart Super Specialty Hospital, is one of the many doctors who use equipment that are digitally driven for dental procedures.
Dr Ajay Sharma, head of dental sciences at New Delhi’s Max Smart Super Specialty Hospital, is one of the many doctors who use equipment that are digitally driven for dental procedures.(Ravi Choudhary/HT Photo )

Kapil Kohli, 50, a Delhi-based practicing homoeopath, has had to get a root canal done in several of his teeth in the past 15 years. Now, he can get one done in a single sitting, where it used to take him at least two or three earlier.

Dental science has advanced a great deal over the years, and now there are newer equipment that are digitally driven and help a dentist perform the procedure as common as a root canal far more precisely and efficiently.

Root canal treatment is a procedure to remove the infected dental pulp to stop infection from spreading.

“Root canal used to be a manual process, where the doctor would remove the tooth pulp according to their judgment. Since it used to be a blind procedure, repeated x-rays were also needed during multiple sittings to judge whether the infection has been removed completely and whether the filling has happened properly,” says Dr Ajay Sharma, head of dental sciences at New Delhi’s Max Smart Superspecialty Hospital.

“Now we can complete a root-canal and even the capping in just a day. This will also go a long way in promoting dental tourism as people can just fly in and out the same day,” said Dr Sharma.

For capping – the metal or ceramic covering used to close a tooth after root canal therapy – an intra-oral scanner can help in developing a digital impression that can be used to make the cap.

“The crowns created digitally are more precise, so, it does not have to be filed while putting it on the tooth,” said Dr Sharma.

Shirin Khan, 19, was riding a two-wheeler to college on the outskirts of Mumbai when a truck hit her. She fell off her bike, lost two teeth and chipped a third.

After a five-hour computer-guided surgery where the doctors grafted bone from her chin to her upper jaw, she was waiting for life to get back to normal.

Shirin Khan, 19, lost her two teeth in an accident. After a five-hour computer-guided surgery, doctors grafted bone from her chin to her upper jaw.

Khan lost a lot of bone in her upper jaw. In the past her dentist would have opened up the lower jaw for a bone graft. With computer-aided surgery, he could instead plan exactly which part of the lower jaw to take the graft from and prevent damage to nerve tissue and neighbouring teeth.

Her healing process was much quicker, she bled less, and the damage was controlled, says cosmetic dentist and implant surgeon Dr Rajesh Shetty.

Digital advances in dentistry have made such treatments more accessible.

More precise procedures, less cuts, less recovery time, less pain medicines and antibiotics – new digital equipment promise better outcomes for dental procedures.

3D printing in dentistry is also becoming popular in India.

An operator can now scan a tooth, send the image to a laboratory and gets an artificial tooth that is a perfect match, within 24 hours.

“Since human error is no longer an issue, the fit is perfect,” says Dr Shrikant Wakankar, a dentist in Pune.

A 3D print of a patient’s jawbone can also be created and used to simulate an entire surgery, improving the eventual outcome.

Laser technology has gained popularity, as it puts the patient at ease since there is no sound of the drill. “It also creates a much cleaner working field for the dentist, as there is less bleeding,” says periodontist and oral implantologist, Dr Leisha Watsa.

It saves you the squirms that you got when the drill touched your tooth and made the noise during the root canal
procedure.

“People complained of discomfort when the drilling happened during root canal. Lasers can do it without sound,” says Sharma.

The cost, too, does not go up too much, the doctors say.

The new digital scanning equipment exposes patients to 10 times less radiation,” Dr Ajay Sharma. (Ravi Choudhary/HT Photo)

“The price for most procedures using the new digital equipment goes up by only 20 – 30 percent, but if we look at the time that is saved during and after the procedure for recovery, it is hardly anything,” says Sharma.

Getting a root canal will cost you around ₹8,000 plus another ₹15,000 for the cap, marginally higher than a total of ₹19 – 20,000 it would cost for a traditional procedure.

Digital scanning also exposes you to less radiation. “The radiation from digital scanners expose patients to 10 times less radiation. The image generated is 3 dimensional, which means we are able to see the bone width, height density, everything before a dental procedure,” says Sharma.

The images generated can also be saved for years, unlike x-ray films.

When it comes to getting dental implants, digital imaging has helped massively. “Earlier, the bone density, size, volume etc could be visualised only in a proper CT scan, which would expose the person to a lot of radiation and was not recommended for an elective procedure. So, it could be seen only after making an incision, drilling the bone and feeling it,” said Professor Saranjit S Bhasin, Dean of faculty of dentistry, Jamia Millia Islamia.

Digital imaging also helps in reducing the inventory of implants. “Through digital imaging, we already know which implant would fit in the person’s jaw, so we do not need to maintain a big inventory of implants of different sizes,” he said.

The surgery too can be planned completely on the equipment. “Using the scans, a planning machine can create a guide – which is basically like a stensil that can guide the surgeon as to exactly where the drilling has to be done and till what depth, this means less cutting and quicker healing,” said Dr Sharma.

As a result, more people are willing to undergo the procedure.