Dentistry moves beyond pain relief

Tue, Apr 22nd 2014, 10:54 AM

The pain associated with toothache has been described as excruciating by those persons who have been afflicted. In years past, once the rotting tooth had decayed to the point that the pain was unbearable, dentists simply extracted the tooth. However, with dentistry evolving as much as it has, people faced with dental problems now have more options -- not only to relieve the pain, but to fix the problem, and also save the tooth.
Jenna Romer, 64, is one of those persons benefitting from the advancement in the dentistry field. Diagnosed with pyorrhea, a periodontal disease that often leads to the loss of teeth she had thought by the age of 40 that she would have lost all of her teeth, but is increasingly impressed with the ease of her dental visits and the options now available to make the dental repairs she needs easier.
"I thought that eventually with the way my teeth were going bad I would be toothless by the time I was 40 and have to get dentures or something," said the retired teacher. "But thanks to changes in dentistry I don't have to and instead of dentures I have a permanent bridge in my mouth which is something my own father, a generation ahead of me, did not have the option of having when his teeth fell out in his 40s. I think that that is proof enough that dentistry is indeed changing for the better nowadays."
Romer who has seen a number of dentists over the years for her dental issues, said she had always hoped that someone would have a different resolution to her problem, other than removing her teeth.
"It has only been in the last 20 years maybe that I have seen a major change in this field. The root canal procedure is more popular and I have been able to keep many of my remaining teeth that have given me problems throughout the years," she said.
Dr. Gill Gibson, a dentist at Bay View Dental Centre on East Bay Street, says the evolution of dentistry has made the dentist's office a more appealing place, rather than a place to be feared as a place where tooth problems were fixed with extractions.
One of the most significant changes in dentistry is that there are more preventative measures in addressing dental problems according to the dental practitioner. She says no longer do you have to wait until you face a major dilemma for something to be done. Fifty years ago when someone like Romer was diagnosed with pyorrhea the assumption was that there was nothing to be done and the patient would eventually just lose all their teeth, but now that there is more knowledge about the different dental diseases there are more methods to remedy the ailment, other than extraction.
"In the past the main function of dentistry was to relieve dental pain and problems.
"In the past there were very limited options to handle most dental issues. It was either it could be filled, cleaned or extracted" says the dental practitioner of 24 years. "Today it is more about function and aesthetics. This field has gone from having few options to treat various dental problems to having many ways to deal with the same issues because the level of research and understanding of dental diseases has grown, and ways to effectively prevent and treat them have developed.
For persons dealing with tooth decay, instead of the dentist's only option being to fill the tooth if it's just an incipient lesion or having to extract it if it is in advanced stages of decay. She says they now have the option of administering a root canal -- a procedure that treats the canals in the root of the tooth when the pulp has become contaminated by decay, which can save the tooth. She says other aggressive filling techniques are usually also very effective, and that they have advanced so far that a tooth that appears to be beyond saving can be saved by dentists who specialize in root canals and have the special microscopes that allows them to do an even more precise job than usual.
Compared to 50 years ago, dentistry has also become very specialized and aesthetically oriented. Common procedures today like whitening were not popular, since the general belief was that one was either born with white teeth or not. According to Dr. Gibson, this was not something she had to worry about when she was studying to be a dentist. Even dental specialists like orthodontists were not as common either and the equipment used to straighten teeth was bulkier and unsightly compared to the lighter and more discreet forms of braces available today.
Dentistry will continue to be an ever-evolving field and in another 50 years, Dr. Gibson expects that even more knowledge about dental diseases will be gathered so that better and more efficient techniques will be learned to make dental visits shorter and more comfortable.
"I think that the next logical step would be that many techniques already used today would become more refined so that doing procedures will be less time consuming and uncomfortable for patients. I believe that there will always be room for further research and the field will continue to grow and improve on what has already been established," she said.

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