The Evolution Of Dentistry: Going To The Dentist Is Now Fun
In any type of industry or profession there is a constant evolution. At times the discipline, or branch of knowledge, may evolve in a negative way that may seem to hurt people or society. The science of medication for pain management might be one example. Although opiates have largely decreased pain for millions of people, the greed of a few spurred widespread abuse and death. It also created a small minority of doctors that developed a black market of wealth built on the backs of that abuse. Another example is sports wagering. The nationwide expansion of gambling and ease with which people can now place bets digitally from the comfort of their own homes may lead to more ruin and devastation among some of the populace. But this isn’t a referendum on morals and ethics, these are just examples of how evolution within an industry can possibly take a turn for the worse. This is even when there are obvious positive outcomes that run parallel with the negative outcomes. Pain management from opiates and an increase in state tax revenue from gambling are seen as good or even great conclusions.
There are also industries or professions where the evolution has been universally accepted as a positive trajectory. In the field of dentistry, dental implants made leaps and bounds in the 50’s and 60’s. Dental implants can change people’s lives, as they restore the ability to be able to eat what people like and give them the nutrition they need. Implants also allow for stimulation of the bone, which will prevent bone loss in the jaw. Clear aligners were developed in the 1990’s to straighten people’s teeth without the busy aesthetics of normal braces. This was also widely looked at as a positive advancement, in order to give people choices in how to get their bite aligned. More choices in general, and more healthy choices seem to await patients these days. Dr. Frank Grosso, a general dentist in the Frederick, Maryland area, has taken an approach where he has branched out into many aspects of health care that are treated by dental practitioners. Dr. Grosso and his daughter Dr. Katie Grosso offer anything from sleep apnea treatment to Botox and facial filler treatments.
I recently sat down with Dr. Frank Grosso, who is always affable and enlightening. Dr. Grosso relayed how he has evolved as a dental clinician over the years. “For a guy who has been practicing dentistry for 36 years, I think I finally figured it out, said Dr. Grosso. Did I mention he was also modest? For a guy who has performed hundreds of successful procedures, I think he has figured it out as well. Dr. Grosso continued, “I had an amazing education at Georgetown University School of Dentistry, and after graduating in 1986, I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I had all the skills and knowledge necessary for excellent quality care to my patients. My mentor made me quickly realize that I didn’t know it all, as we attended a comprehensive, quality continuing education class four months later.” Dr. Grosso continued to show humility, explaining that you certainly don’t know it all coming out of dental school. But a constant evolution is necessary in almost all aspects of life, as it is not often that all outside factors remain the same.
Dr. Grosso explained, “In the words of my Uncle Vinny, how long have you been practicing dentistry, and when are you going to get it right? Well I guess you never do completely, and the profession is always changing, and you better keep up. Teaching dentistry at both Georgetown and the University of Maryland really helped keep me current with the latest and greatest, in addition to continuing classes constantly. Also, practicing dentistry within all the specialties (oral surgery, orthodontics, endodontics, periodontics) has provided a very comprehensive look at dentitions and allowed me to treat patients very comprehensively. But now things have really changed. We train our dentists to be restorative practitioners, but most do not understand why that tooth broke or why is their gum receding. Our scanner shows how our patients’ teeth function and helps to understand problems that have occurred, and how to curb the next catastrophe. Our patients that have had clear aligner therapy are fixed and are my ‘A’ group that need very little care, except regular checkups and cleanings. So now I think we have a revelation that is get the patient’s bite (occlusion) right first, and then restore their teeth. How short-sighted we were, when we were being taught to restore so many teeth in bad bites or malocclusion.”
Dr. Grosso brings up a great point about the particular evolution of restorative dentistry. A lot of time and money and energy was wasted decades ago when teeth were restored even with a bad bite. Because of several factors, partially due to a lack of technological advances prior, dentists would just try to fix teeth, without always understanding the root cause of the problem. In addition, they would try to fix teeth with a dentition that was crooked or poorly structured. This is turn could lead to further problems or current problems would become exacerbated in certain cases. That is why Grosso Family Dentistry, among other practices, is such an advocate of Invisalign and other teeth straightening techniques. Get the bite right. Then repair and restore, so it aligns with the bone structure and occlusion. Getting a car running that pulls to the right so bad it crashes into things isn’t really fixing anything correctly. Getting the car’s alignment right, then getting it to run results in the more positive outcome. Hindsight tells us that this will obviously save way more time and money in the long run. In dentistry’s defense, some people also used to think smoking relieved stress.
It is amazing how many children are undaunted by the dentist these days, or even look forward to the visit. What kind of evolution has occurred here? In the last couple of decades, an extraordinary amount of factors have contributed to the dental visit being fun. Or probably using broader and more accurate terminology, the dental visit has become satisfying, efficient, and uplifting. First of all, technology continues to advance, allowing for quicker appointments and less time being uncomfortable. Digital scanners have made impressions way more appealing. Instead of tasting not-so-tasty impression material in your mouth, in many offices a patient can experience the doctor “waving” a wand across the mouth to accurately get a vision of the dentition and bone. Speaking about bone may not invoke thoughts of satisfaction and being uplifted…unless it’s Halloween! The evolution of social media has been a way to engage patients on an ongoing basis. No longer are dentists mailing a post card every six months for your next appointment, but instead they are showing you their every day life in the office. Dressing up for Halloween and posting it on Facebook seems to be just one of many examples where clinicians are becoming more visible, more current, and more fun. Dental practices often hold community events or sponsor teams, clubs, or charities. With more positive outcomes due to better processes, better technology and training, and more fun and engagement, going to the dentist appears to be an event that has evolved for the better. As I was leaving Grosso Family Dentistry, Dr. Frank began discussing guided surgical kits and guided surgery. He was talking about how some implant placements take literally a fraction of the time they used to. The evolution is ceaseless.