When I consider what is new and important for cosmetic dentistry in 2006, what first comes to mind is the growing marketing trend by dental laboratories and manufacturers rather than any novel products. Of course, new products are still important. But the new marketing strategy reflects and accelerates a sea of change in our field, and will have a tremendous impact on the industry. In 2005, some dental companies took a cue from the pharmaceutical industry and began to market directly to consumers by placing artful advertisements in popular magazines. The initiative seems to have worked, and companies should invest more in direct-to-consumer advertising in 2006. This presents opportunities and challenges to dentists.
On the one hand, increased marketing will stimulate an already growing public awareness of the personal, social, and professional impact of a beautiful smile. This will help solidify widespread acceptance of esthetic dentistry, and create a large and permanent stream of customers. On the other hand, consumers will become more knowledgeable of the latest products, and their expectations will increase as well.
The advertisements feature pictures of beautiful teeth, emphasize comfort, durability, and patient-friendly treatment processes, and encourage further consumer research on company Web sites. Hence, patients enter dental offices relatively informed with a precise idea of what they want and high standards for results. They want what’s in the pictures - usually full-porcelain restorations - and won’t accept traditional crowns with visible metal and dark gum lines. They also expect natural-looking restorations, and won’t tolerate monochromatic, artificial results. To better serve educated consumers in 2006, dentists should be well-versed in the latest products and technologies, and have the knowledge and skills to thoroughly discuss them with patients and utilize them to deliver beautiful new smiles. I expect several trends to streamline cosmetic procedures, ease the lives of dentists, and satisfy patients. Here are a few of the most important:
•Computer-aided laboratory design and fabrication: The basic CAD/CAM technology still will have a significant impact on the restorative process. Some laboratories are perfecting computer design and milling procedures to accelerate the fabrication process. This will allow them to eliminate the current wax up, pressing, reshaping, etc., and create initial restorations from prefabricated porcelain blocks. Master ceramists can then add the finishing touches to shade. As a result, dentists will receive customized restorations in three to four days, not two to three weeks.
•CAD/CAM implant technology: Laboratories also are perfecting CAD/CAM techniques to help dentists simplify and optimize the placement of implants. Technicians use three-dimensional software and X-rays to pinpoint where an implant should enter the bone, and then create a surgical stent to guide the drill with near perfection.
•Shade stability in resin cements: Dental companies are developing new resin cements that will not darken over time and affect the final color of veneers.
•Dental lasers instead of scalpels: Dentists will begin to rely much more heavily on lasers to make subtle modifications of gum lines. This will eliminate the two- to three-week healing time. New lasers will allow dentists to prep the teeth, alter the gums, and take an impression - all in the same day.
We also can expect manufacturers to continually tweak dental products such as self-etching adhesives, composites, and composite resin cements to consolidate steps and simplify the restoration process. These advancements help to make the job of a cosmetic dentist easier. But it is important for dentists to stay up-to-date on the benefits through continuing education. As products and technologies continue to advance, and consumers become more knowledgeable, it is imperative to understand the latest developments and offer the best options available to your patients - now and in the future.
Dr. Christopher Pescatore lectures worldwide on topics such as state-of-the-art esthetic procedures, techniques, and materials. He holds a U.S. patent for a nonmetallic post system to restore endodontically treated teeth. He is the former clinical co-director and current featured speaker at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. He has a full-time practice in Danville, Calif., dedicated exclusively to esthetic dentistry, and also serves as Clinical Director of MicroDental Laboratories. Contact him at (925) 362-9330, or at [email protected].