A few thoughts on the changing nature of Digital Technology and its Genesis?

Digital dentistry has been with us since dentistry was recognised when Dr John M. Harris commenced the world’s first dental school in Bainbridge, Ohio, and helped establish dentistry as the health profession we know today. It opened on 21 February 1828, and today is a dental museum1. Though dentistry was happening long before that date.

In dentistry we utilise dexterity on a daily basis (the use of few or many digits) requiring eye hand coordination along with our experience and knowledge. I’m sure we all remember the wire bending exercises for orthodontics and partial denture design, was that a passive fit with a shape that works in three dimensions? You began to understand what digital dexterity was about whilst developing knowledge and experience “Digital dexterity is a core employee cognitive ability and social practice that will define digital business success.2

With the advent of digital dentistry we simply added the “AL” to digit which is the artificial language running the digital technology utilised. Digital Dentistry (in this case CAD/CAM) still requires manipulation (on screen) and post processing (your artistry) with your digits. So there is still the need for eye hand co-ordination along with your experience and knowledge to handle the myriad of materials and techniques available to the dental profession.

Along with what we see on a screen, digital dentistry has been part of the daily processes for a long time in dentistry’s various specialties e.g. Orthodontic, Endodontic (rotary endodontics, Prosthodontic (Fixed and Removable), Practice management software, Imaging (intra-oral, extra-oral to CBCT), implant planning, clinical photography, shade matching, occlusal records (T-Scan), smile design, curing lights, computer controlled administration of nitrous oxide is possible via digital dentistry. All have become a vital part of everyday practice, laboratory and patient management.

So what does all of this mean to you the end user of digital technology? Is it a revolution or evolution in dentistry? I would propose that it is an evolution of the workflow offering repeatability and predictability with techniques and diagnosis. You will still need to make decisions based on sound clinical and technical judgement. These judgements will be based on your knowledge and experience within the environment you work.

Remember there needs to be a problem for you to solve and improve on what you do currently or a need to PULL information and not a PUSH (from industry) for that information. There is a lot of information available and as the end user of technology you are at the tip of an iceberg and you can’t see what is happening below the surface.

So a natural progression with digital technology should result in the following;

  • Better Communication, Treatment Planning and Teamwork
  • Digital and CAD/CAM Solutions provide certainty, reproducibility, predictability and the potential of an end result before you start.
  • Understand the advantages and limitations of each technology. Who is selling the technology and what are their origins.
  • Your knowledge and experience of materials and techniques are what will compose the final product.
  • You identify areas of concern on the screen before pressing next, forward, etc.
  • Integrate Digital Technology into Daily Dentistry NOW and ask an expert HOW.

Understanding the modern practice and laboratory pressures and integrating digital technology into daily practice is simplified and predictable through integrated workflow solutions. Digital Dentistry Consultancy (DDC) realises that not all dentistry practices and laboratories have a practical understanding of digital workflows. Sometimes you just need a helping hand to understand the basics in order to decide on the best possible digital infrastructure, one that is the most relevant to your business and will allow for a quick set up to get you started with your new digital services.

Conversations never hurt and often fantastic results occur when we put our heads together and collaborate!

Lookout for the next article – Preparation technique and Milling Considerations.




  1. Owen, Lorrie K., ed. Dictionary of Ohio Historic Places. Vol. 2. St. Clair Shores: Somerset, 1999, 1217–1218.
  2. Defining Digital Dexterity — The Core Workforce Resource for the Digital Business. 29 June 2015, G00277849 Analyst(s): Nick Ingelbrecht | Mike Gotta | Don Scheibenreif
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