Glasgow dentist Dr Brendan Murphy talks about the changes in modern dentistry he has seen in his years running a dental practice in the west end of the city.
Since my year of graduation in 1992, I’ve witnessed some fantastic developments which have vastly improved the way that we treat patients. These very often either improve the treatments themselves, prevent the development of future problems or alternatively assist the patient in both achieving and understanding the issues/options which face them.
- White fillings – although these were available 28 years ago, the quality wasn’t quite as it is now. Additionally, patients were then very often choosing to have metal fillings because they simply couldn’t afford the early prices. Now, in our practices, we rarely place mercury amalgam fillings as patients choose white fillings. I’ve made this number one because it’s our most common request and all dentists are capable of providing these restorations.
- Implants – before graduating, we received very little formal education on implant dentistry. This was very much a rapidly developing phenomenon. The idea that we might be replacing patient’s teeth routinely in practice seemed like fantasy at that time. We are now inundated by patients seeking to eliminate an unwanted denture, to improve various cosmetic aspects of their smile through dental implants and most importantly to deliver best function through their new, fixed porcelain teeth. We place hundreds of dental implants at Appletree Dental Care every year, thanks to our many referring dentists.
- Cosmetic or Clear Braces – in February 2009 I ventured down to Birmingham for a CPD conference. There were no dentists offering Six Month Smiles at that time in Scotland. It was genuinely a career changing moment and we returned a few days later, enthused by the idea of using ceramic brackets instead of metal, on adult patients who were hitherto deprived of the cosmetic braces options. Now there are many more systems such as Invisalign and Inman Aligners although bracketed orthodontic options are still very much the gold standards.
- Dental software – our practices allow us to be much more organised, giving you the patient so much better service than we could 28 years ago. Computerised reminders, appointments, treatment notes enable us to give far more time to your treatment.
- Electric toothbrush – a recent 11year long study by Pitchika et al demonstrates the benefits: 22% less gum shrinkage and 18% less decay. Patients are inclined to scrub less and get into areas which may otherwise be inaccessible. Further, patients with motor control issues e.g. frail, elderly, those with challenges to dexterity, all fare much better with electric brushes.
- Preventive Dentistry – represents the cornerstone of every consultation. We focus on dietary, fluoride and hygiene advice on a day to day basis. Most of our patients return every six months and no matter how complex their journey to and with us, they usually require very little maintenance or treatment ongoing. This is on the back of our preventative focus.
- Teeth whitening – the limit on Hydrogen Peroxide legal concentration was set at 6% by the UK Cosmetic Product Regulations in 2012. There were significant issues in regards to earlier, higher concentrations, although we have chosen never to administer these: safety first. Tooth whitening is often the first treatment stage considered in a cosmetic dentistry process with porcelain veneer or crown-work matched to the resulting shade. With gum shields custom made, it can provide excellent results through a very safe technique.
- Financial Agreements – in the beginning, there were mostly NHS patients. Private treatment was sporadic in Scotland with the occasional patient choosing white fillings or a single veneer or bridge which may not have otherwise been available on the NHS. Now, patients are referred to us by other dentists or through our websites for all kinds of smile makeovers and cosmetic dentistry options. These are regularly paid for by our patients, through dental finance agreements made via Finance4Patients.
- Digital Dentistry – many of the porcelain and implant related restorations such as crowns, bridges and supporting titanium bars or frameworks, are fabricated using CAD/CAM technology. Information is exchanged online between our technicians and laboratories around the world. We use milling centres in Spain, Belgium and Qatar. Digital photographs of before, during and after are exchanged on a daily basis. None of these options were available to us in the early years.
- Communication – there were no text or email reminders in 1992. Now patients can check websites, Facebook pages and other social media forums to look at the services or treatments we offer. We often email patients with complex Cosmetic or Implant treatment plans to explain all the options and confirm their preferred plan.