The Progress of Dentistry

The dental profession has evolved a lot in the past 60 years. Curiosity and wonderment or even the constant thinking about how to make something better, also known as research is responsible for the progress we have made in dentistry. Any dentist out there can attest that dentistry has never been more enjoyable to do than ever before because of the different options in treatment and materials available to make beautiful restorations.

We are where we are now because we understand bacteria and infection. Understanding microbiology as it relates to dental caries and periodontal (gum) disease, recognizing them as infectious diseases, has changed the way we treat both of these conditions. We were able to develop strategies of prevention based on these findings.

We have general and local anesthesia. Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) was also discovered to be used successfully as a form of anesthesia.

Standards have been set on techniques for filling teeth, operative procedures and instrumentation and visual aids in educating the public on dentistry.

Then we have federal funding for dental research being established by President Harry Truman, who signed a congressional bill to formally establish the National Institute of Dental Research in 1948. Its mission continues today to be the improvement of oral, dental, and craniofacial health through research – a beginning of the infusion of science, technology, and public money into university based research.

The benefits of fluoride were discovered when clinical trials were conducted on the fluoridation of drinking water. This was perhaps the most significant public health measure of the 20th century by fluoridation of water to reduce tooth decay. Subsequently, it led to the use of fluoride in other forms, including gels, rinses, dentifrices and sealant.

Adhesive bonding and polymer chemistry were then developed. Obviously, the ability to do most of cosmetic dentistry today are enjoyed and benefited by the public which all goes back to the original polymer chemistry.

High–speed rotary instrumentation was invented by John Borden in 1957. His introduction of high speed drills greatly enhanced the end effect of treatments of the dental caries process. Combined with local anesthesia, high-speed hand pieces make dentistry kind of painless.

Implant dentistry was then introduced by Alvin Strock for his first vitallium dental screw implant. Much later, Professor Branemark represented his first application of his discovery of osseointegration. Implants have enabled dentists to restore function in a different and simple way using biological approaches and very specialized materials.

We have better understanding on host response to infection and inflammation, how the body reacts to microbiota in the mouthand how to treat it.

The occurrence of the digital revolution dramatically and rapidly changed the way dentists manage and practice dentistry. It is the result of digital technology: computers and telephones, digital radiography, CAD/CAM chairside restorations, intraoral imaging, computerized patient records, and practice management software. High-tech products such as high intensity curing lights, lasers and laser based diagnostic tools continue to change dentistry at a rapid pace.

The link between oral and systemic disease is now recognized. With it came the understanding that without oral health, no person is truly healthy. Links between oral disease and systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, delivery of preterm, low-birth-weight babies, diabetes and others, enable the dentists to work more closely with their colleagues in medicine, nursing and pharmacy as an integral part of the biomedical team. The medical community realizes that dentistry has a lot to offer to the healthcare enterprise as a whole and makes them equal partners.

Where will dentistry be in the future? Stay tuned for more in the next issue.

For questions, please call 619-464-2801 for an appointment. We are located on 4700 Spring St., Suite 210, La Mesa, Ca. 91941.

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