WHEELING, W.Va. - Things are changing rapidly in the dental health world. For starters, iPads are replacing traditional waiting room magazines while needles and drills are giving way to high-tech tools and procedures.
Patients also are getting appointment verification messages via email or through texting.
Dr. Eleisha Nickoles, owner of Cosmetic and Family Dentistry at 1320 National Road in Wheeling and past president of the 75-member Wheeling District Dental Society, said new technology is removing much of the fear stigma formally associated with a trip to the dentist.
Visitors to the dental office of Dr. Eleisha Nikoles in Wheeling will not find magazines to pass time. Instead, iPads are offered for patients awaiting their time in the chair.
"We now have computerized delivery of anesthesia, which is much more comfortable to the patient than traditional numbing methods," she said.
As an alternative to the needle and drill, dentists now can employ air abrasion dentistry.
Nickoles said air abrasion dentistry is a conservative, less traumatic alternative to the high-speed drill. It allows the dentist to selectively remove decay, leaving a healthier tooth structure. The procedure can often be done without anesthesia.
"Without a shot, you will have fewer visits to your dentist because he or she can often do more than one cavity restoration at a time," she said.
Another new technology is the Diagnodent, a small laser instrument that scans teeth with laser light searching for hidden decay. A pen-like probe glides over tooth surfaces, thoroughly probing for previously unseen issues.
Nickoles said, "a number scale and alarm signals the operator when there are signs of hidden decay. It is completely safe and pain free."
Same-day crowns are possible by the use of ceramic reconstruction.
"An optical 3D image is acquired with a small camera directly in the patient's mouth," Nikoles said. "The restoration is created on the screen using the image data and diamond coated instruments mill a ceramic block to reproduce the design. This is accomplished through a single appointment using Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacture."
According to Nikoles, fillings with no numbing can be done with a new hard tissue/soft tissue laser.
"We use a wand to accomplish single-tooth anesthesia," she said, "eliminating the need to numb the tongue and large part of the mouth."
Also available is a product called Oraverse, designed to reverse anesthesia numbing within one hour; and fluoride varnishing to protect against decay, sensitivity, abrasion and erosion.
Nikoles said the dental care landscape is changing as many people opt to not have dental procedures not covered by insurance.
"I understand that thinking, but it is not always what is best for the patient," she said. "Things like periodontal and other dental issues affect our overall health. They have been linked to other major non-dental health issues."
In an effort to reach out to people who have no dental insurance, Nikoles has developed what she calls her No Insurance Club.
"It is not dental insurance," she said. "It is more of a pre-paid treatment plan. A patient may pay $250 for 12 months of services, including two exams, two professional cleanings, a fluoride varnish and an oral cancer screening. Denture wearers can get a similar plan for $135."