Philadelphia Magazine’s Top Dentists 2010: The Drill Is Gone

Going to the dentist isn’t as much of a pain as it used to be — literally

The Issue: An infected or dead tooth
The Old Fix: A root canal that involves intricate by-hand cutting and root-shaping (ouch!), which might take multiple visits to complete.
The New Fix: A root canal done with new engine-driven files that reshape the root, often in less than an hour.
Cool Factor: Nerve endings everywhere can heave a big, deep sigh of relief.

The Issue: Dentist chair nerves and boredom
The Old Fix: Back issues of People and Highlights; Muzak and light rock.
The New Fix: Everything from HD TVs to built-in chair massagers. (Just no texting … see page 75.)
Cool Factor: Pretending you’re just getting a pedicure: priceless.

The Issue: A suspicious lesion in your mouth
The Old Fix: Slicing that thing off with a scalpel, and sending it to the lab to be checked under a microscope.
The New Fix: The lesion is gently scraped with a brush-like instrument — it’s painless, no anesthesia -needed — and a computer evaluates the cells.
Cool Factor: Because this can be done in-office, oral cancers are often caught earlier.

The Issue: Stained, ugly teeth
The Old Fix: Unpleasant enamel removal dulled with anesthetic, to make way for porcelain veneers.
The New Fix: Lumineers. They’re made from ultra-thin laminate that’s stronger and more opaque, so there’s usually no need to remove enamel before applying.
Cool Factor: Depending on the state of your smile, some teeth may still need enamel removal, and badly stained teeth may need thicker veneers.

The Issue: Crooked teeth
The Old Fix: You know it (and probably suffered through it once before): clunky metal braces that cut your lips and trap your lunch.
The New Fix: Nearly invisible Invisalign, a series of clear, soft plastic trays you replace every two weeks. Best part? You can take them out while eating, brushing or smooching.
Cool Factor: They may take longer than their metal counterparts and may not work for seriously problematic mouths.

The Issue: Cavities that need filling
The Old Fix: A needle to numb you, and the unsettling whir of a high-powered dental drill grinding into your tooth.
The New Fix: A Waterlase — a laser combined with an ultra-fine stream of water — smooths away tooth decay with minimal pain and without that toe-curling drill noise.
Cool Factor: The most common — and commonly dreaded — procedure now often comes minus the dread. 

The Issue:
Painful procedures
The Old Fix: A shot — or two, or three — of lidocaine, and you still might feel a little something.
The New FIx: A twice-as-strong shot of Septocaine. It numbs the tooth more, and fewer injections are usually needed.
Cool Factor: It’s still a shot, just a better one.

The Issue: A lost or broken tooth
The Old Fix: A removable denture.
The New Fix: A natural-looking, permanent titanium or ceramic implant that screws into the jawbone.
Cool Factor: Anything’s cooler than dentures. If you can hold on to your wisdom teeth, their stem cells may be able to grow a replacement tooth.

The Issue: Persistent gum disease
The Old Fix: Pop a plaque-fighting antibiotic that throws your entire body out of whack.
The New Fix: Dust Arestin, an antibiotic powder, directly onto the gums, greatly reducing the potential side effects of antibiotic use.
Cool Factor: Delay more expensive procedures (like surgery) and skip the constant pill-popping? We’ll take it.

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  • Barbara

    I still have my two lower wisdom teeth. Would that I still had all my other lower teeth! Could those two teeth’s stem cells really be used to make replacement lower teeth (implants)? I’d love it–and I’d love to know more about that!