Dentistry gets digital upgrade with 3D technology (via @NZStuff)

25 Nov

George Glausiuss, dental surgeon, at Open Wide Papanui Dental Centre, scans the teeth of patient Brian Reid with a 3D camera.

In dental surgeries around the country a digital divide is developing as 3D technology muscles in on decades-old techniques.

For an increasing number of patients in need of repair work, biting down on a clump of glue like material is being replaced with a 3D photo.

Of 2500 dentists in New Zealand, about 260 are now designing and producing custom-made caps, crowns, fillings and bridges with 3D technology.

George Glausiuss, dental surgeon, at Open Wide Papanui Dental Centre, scans the teeth of patient Brian Reid with a 3D camera.

John Kirk-Anderson

Christchurch dentist and early adopter George Glausiuss bought his 3D camera, CAD design software, 3D milling machine and oven four years ago for an eye watering $250,000.

He says the move has transformed his work and he loves being able to see the whole process through himself.

“It gave my career a whole new lease of life.”

For patient, Brian Reid Glausiuss’ ability to complete two crowns in one appointment meant he saved an extra two hour return trip to Christchurch from his home in Banks Peninsula.

In the past, Glausiuss would have taken a mould and given him temporary crowns – requiring a return appointment in two weeks time.

Reid’s appointment starts instead with a 3D photo session of his oral cavities with a tool similar in shape to a large electric toothbrush attached to a computer.

As Glausiuss hovers the inter-oral camera over Reid’s teeth a 3D image of the tooth – and it’s neighbours appears on screen almost immediately.

The dental drill still gets a work out, as Glausiuss follows up, preparing the tooth for the crown.

Another scan captures the base of the tooth cavity, and Reid’s bite.

A small block of purple ceramic, the size of a post-it note is placed in a milling machine where it will be chiselled in to an exact replica of Reid’s tooth.

Glausiuss clicks the mouse and boom, the finished crown appears on screen.

He tweaks the computerised design, closing a small gap with the neighbouring tooth, while allowing enough room for floss.

When the design is finalised, another mouse click sets the 15 minute milling process in motion while Reid is still in the dentists chair.

With the block of ceramic reduced to a small purple tooth, Glausiuss gets out the paint brushes and stains to ensure the final crown looks the part.

“I really enjoy this, you get to put in the characteristics of the tooth.”

Reid looks on, perplexed by the momentous effort going in to his new molar.

“You’re the only person who is going to see it George.”

“But I know it’s there,” Glausiuss says as he sprays the tiny tooth with a clear glaze.

The tooth, still purple, goes in to the oven where it crystallises and hardens.

As it fires the tooth whitens and the stain, expertly applied by Glausiuss, is baked on.

When cool, the tooth fits like a hand in a glove and is glued in to place.

While dentist nerds like Glausiuss have taken the plunge with 3D, for most dentists the jury is still out.

One of those happy to stay with the status quo is Jane Mason from Elmwood Dental in Christchurch.

With 37 years of experience in dentistry behind her, she cannot see the benefits of changing to 3D techniques.

“It’s not because I’m afraid of it, it’s just that I get very good results with the techniques I use.”

“So why change?”

Mason said she works closely with dental technicians who produced very high quality work.

She enjoyed the interaction with the technicians when working on more complex cases.

Advanced Ceramics dental technician Andy Burrows said the company used 3D and traditional techniques with the split “about fifty-fifty”.

A staff of 12 technicians made crowns, caps, bridges and implants for about 100 dentists from around the country.

He said the majority of dentists had not adopted 3D technology because it was not affordable and they could not see the benefit.

“It’s not saving them a lot of time or material costs.”

Some simply didn’t want to take on the work of a dental technician, and would prefer to see more patients instead, Burrows said.

The effect on business for dental technicians had been minor so far.

“It has had an impact – but not hugely, because you are always going to have guys who don’t want to use it,” Burrows said.




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