Antigonish Family Dentistry
‘Dentistry goes high-tech at Antigonish clinic’
There are some high-tech systems found at your neighbourhood dental practice these days - from therapeutic lasers to computer-aided design. Dr. Ernie Wotton, a dentist for close to 20 years, is familiar with these and other technologies. He and his staff at Antigonish Family Dentistry use them everyday.
It seems every place is computerized these days, says Dr. Wotton. And the use of computers has evolved far beyond scheduling appointments.
Over the past 20 years, computers have moved beyond the reception area, to the examination rooms where they play an important role in patient care.
Dr. Wotton says computerized technology has benefited both patients and staff through improved products and reduced time needed for certain procedures. The taking of X-rays is one example.
Dental X-rays have gone digital at many practices, including Antigonish Family Dentistry. The digital X-ray, known officially as a digital radiograph, produces a high-quality image of a patient’s teeth on a computer screen in only a few seconds, with no waiting for film to develop. When the dentist looks at the image on-screen, he can also add colour or increase the contrast to highlight a given area. Because the image is a digital file, it can be easily shared via e-mail with other health care providers. And while traditional X-rays expose the patient to very low, and therefore safe, levels of radiation, digital X-rays reduce that exposure even further.
Most people have had Bitewing X-rays taken as part of routine dental care, but Antigonish Family Dentistry also has a machine to take Panoramic X-rays. With this machine, you don’t have to hold the film in your teeth because the film is housed in a moving camera that creates a detailed image of your mouth from ear to ear. The Panoramic X-ray captures an image that includes all your teeth, the upper and lower jawbone, the sinuses and part of the neck. “This type of X-ray is often used for patients who need braces, extractions, implants or bone evaluation for dentures,” says Dr. Wotton, “but it is also helpful in situations like assessing the position of wisdom teeth that have not yet erupted.”
Regular digital cameras have also been adapted to dentistry. The “intra oral camera”—a small digital camera mounted on a wand—is just right for taking a picture inside your mouth. Wotton says the intra-oral camera is especially useful when they have to document an issue like a broken filling or cavity. The digital image can be saved with the patient’s file, or sent electronically to an insurance company or medical referral.
Lasers are a tool you might not think of in dentistry. However, low-level lasers, which don’t generate heat like surgical lasers, are now used in dentistry and many other healthcare fields for pain reduction and soft tissue repair. Light from the laser painlessly penetrates tissue and speeds up the cells’ healing process. Dr. Wotton has two surgical lasers—one is for soft tissue procedures and the other is a hard tissue laser for cavities.
Need a filling? New materials and equipment have speeded up that process as well. A high intensity light at Dr. Wotton’s practice is used to cure the white restorative material now used for fillings. “Years ago, we used metal filling and packed the metal alloy into the tooth and let it harden,” says Dr. Wotton. “Now, the light hardens the filling material in five seconds.”
But perhaps the most exciting technology of all is their Cerec® system—the only one Dr. Wotton knows of in Antigonish. The system uses (CAD/CAM) technology—Computer-aided Design/ Computer-aided Manufacturing—for the repair or reconstruction of damaged or decayed teeth. This technology makes it possible to create a perfectly-fitting restoration, crown or veneer in just one visit.
The Cerec® system is particularly beneficial in producing crowns. Using the traditional method, getting a crown meant two dental appointments and a temporary cover for the tooth between visits. Using the CAD/CAM system, it can be done in just one visit. Here’s how.
The dentist sprays the affected tooth and its neighbours with a special white powder. Then he places a small 3-D camera in the patient’s mouth to photograph the area. The powder allows the camera to capture a 3-D digital image of the teeth, which is then displayed on a computer screen.
Any restoration that the tooth needs is done right on the screen. When the image of the tooth is complete, the computer converts that image into data that can be used by another machine called the milling unit. The dentist chooses a small block of ceramic that matches the colour and size of the patient’s tooth, and the diamond-coated instruments in the milling unit do the rest. In a few minutes, it carves a perfectly-fitting crown, ready for the dentist to insert and polish.
Dr. Wotton enjoys learning about new techniques and equipment in his field, and supports his staff in on-going learning as well. “I personally feel it’s important to keep up with new technologies and procedures,” says Wotton. “Anything that makes it better and faster for patients is what’s important.”
Dr Wotton’s approach has been a successful one. It’s been over ten years since he moved from Newfoundland and bought the practice in Antigonish. In the beginning, it was just himself and two staff at his old office on Main St. But an increase in clientele, and his desire for a more modern space with room for new equipment, warranted a move in 2004 to the Antigonish Mall on Church Street.
There are now ten people who work at Antigonish Family Dentistry, including the original two staff members and a second dentist. “There is a lot of comeradery here,” says Dr. Wotton, “a lot of long-term staff members. Everyone here is like a family.”
On a personal level, Dr. Wotton says moving to Antigonish was a good choice. He and his family enjoy small town life—the local music, theatre and sporting events. And as a business owner, he also has a chance to support the community through sponsoring sporting teams like baseball, hockey and football.
“Antigonish was a great business opportunity and a nice small town to raise a family,” said Dr. Wotton. “We love it here and have fit right into the community.”
Feature Story Written By Susan Corning