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Why digital dentistry is something to smile about

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Professor Lambis Petridis

Head of Prosthodontics, UCL Eastman Dental Institute

Postgraduate dental students who have access to the latest cutting-edge digital dentistry technology will be able to widen their skillsets and enhance their clinical training.


Digital dentistry is revolutionising the dental sector by enhancing learning for students and making the dental experience easier for patients.

For example, it’s now possible to take a 3D scan of a patient’s mouth using an intra-oral camera, rather than taking an impression using silicone material.

Then there’s facial scanning technology which can help dentists analyse and improve a patient’s smile. “Admittedly facial scanning technology is in its infancy, but it is coming” explains Professor Lambis Petridis, Head of Prosthodontics at UCL Eastman Dental Institute.

Digital dentistry will have a big impact on these students’ skills. They’ll be better equipped to understand the huge advantages it will offer them and their patients in the coming decades.

Digital tech has had a big impact on Professor Petridis’ own field of Prosthodontics, too — the area of dentistry concerned with the reconstruction and replacement of teeth.

“Take technicians in dental laboratories who make crowns and dentures on teeth or implants,” he says. “Thanks to digital technology, they’re experiencing a huge increase in productivity and can make many more units with less labour.” Simple crowns can be fabricated chair-side in one appointment and, if dentures are lost, they can be easily remade because individual patient information is now stored digitally.

New technology complements knowledge and experience

So, it stands to reason that dentists — and the educational establishments that train them — will have to embrace digital dentistry going forward, or risk being left behind.

It’s why the UCL Eastman Dental Institute has invested in a dedicated 3D workflow suite to enhance the training of its postgraduate students.

“Digital dentistry will have a big impact on these students’ skills,” says Professor Petridis. “They’ll be better equipped to understand the huge advantages it will offer them and their patients in the coming decades.”

However, he stresses that dental practices still use a mix of analogue and digital procedures, and that while robotics is used in some areas of dentistry, there is still no substitute for human intervention.

“It’s good to be able to offer patients the latest cutting-edge technology,” says Professor Petridis. “But intra-oral cameras and other digital tools are not magic wands — and just using them does not make you a better dentist. Using any new technology requires the knowledge and experience of basic fundamental skills and that is embedded in our core training at UCL Eastman.”

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