Articles, Dentistry

The power of digital dentistry

Improving patient outcomes is one of the cornerstones of the new Standards for the Dental Team issued by the General Dental Council (GDC) in September 2013. This document clearly emphasises the importance of the patient throughout all aspects of the dental experience. The new standards features nine principles that advocate that effective communication and fully informed consent are in the patients’ interests.

The introduction of new techniques, materials and equipment is having a noticeable impact on the ability of a dentist to treat in the best way possible and there is general acceptance that patients are best served by treatments that can be efficiently carried out in the least painful way. For some, digital dentistry is ushering in a new era of patient care, having a positive impact on outcomes for the patient and improving efficiency for practices.

The basis for long-term success in restorative dentistry is established by the ability to diagnose and plan treatments with a high degree of accuracy. So the capability to view a case in multiple planes, from start to finish, gives dentists a new insight that is aiding the clinical process.

Going digital

The digitisation of the dental practice through the use of CAD/CAM technology has been well received in restorative dentistry because of its accuracy, high aesthetics and efficiency. Within dentistry, CAD/CAM systems can be used to design and manufacture customised implant abutments, metal and zirconia frameworks, as well as for all-ceramic full-contour crowns, inlays, and veneers, that are stronger, more aesthetic and better fitting than restorations fabricated using traditional methods.

By incorporating advanced CAD/CAM systems into the diagnostic phase, the margin for error is reduced and dental professionals are better able to replicate natural aesthetics, while focusing on correct function and occlusal harmony. 

This integrated approach, coupled with the ability to communicate immediately and effectively with other professionals, specialists and technicians via an encrypted virtual world, shows the true power of digital dentistry.  

A digital evolution

Traditional communication methods often result in insufficient data transfer and occasionally the need to remake ill-fitting or undesirable restorations. The evolution of CAD/CAM technology has enabled ‘early adopters’ to incorporate some elements of digitisation, but without a fully integrated digital workflow, as most have continued to use conventional methods for data transfer. 

However, the transfer of patient data is now a part of the digital evolution, with the GDC’s Standards for the Dental Team section 4.5.2 stating: ‘If you are sending confidential information, you should use a secure method. If you are sending or storing confidential information electronically, you should ensure that it is encrypted.’ This means that practices and laboratories sending data via web-based, unencrypted software are in breach of the regulations. New technology designed to help practitioners and technicians overcome this issue is now available in the form of the Digital Dental Exchange (DDX). 

Transferring data securely 

DDX is an encrypted, online case management and communication platform that allows practices to securely transfer data to any DDX-supported laboratory. By incorporating all the relevant patient information, including electronic prescription, digital impression files and digital images into a ‘smart’ envelope, DDX encrypts and transfers files immediately, providing a clear and traceable communication pathway. DDX helps achieve a smooth and efficient transfer of information between dentist and technician and is the key to providing optimum outcomes for patients.

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