Monday, February 07, 2005

Ah, Brave New World of Dentistry

Andrew Tobias who writes about Money and other things (also the Treasurer of the National Democrat Committee - UGH!) tell his story about CAD-CAN dentistry here.

I suppose time is money for him:

How I cracked half my molar eating a slice of tomato will go down in The Annals of Dental Mystery as its own separate chapter. But when I settled into his chair, my dentist announced that I needed a new crown, which I always modestly accept, being the King of Patience. Because we dental patients know the drill: First visit is for preparing the tooth and making that delicious and oddly cold playdough impression to send to the lab, and for installing the awful ill-shapen and bad-tasting aluminum “temporary.” The following week is for getting that awful biting-the-inside-of-your-cheek deal going. Second visit is for finding out that the lab didn’t make the crown quite right. Third visit is for – ta-da! – successfully fitting the crown and handing over $1,000, give or take, for your regality.

No more.

Without even bragging, my dentist (who – a little journalistic probing revealed once I was allowed to talk – is just one of 40 out of 7,000 in Florida to have this technology) wheeled over a cart with a control panel and computer screen, displaying the 3D image of my tooth and designing the crown right in front of me, like Leonardo Da Dentist. Then, when it was perfect – get this – he clicked GO and sent the instructions to a milling machine in the backroom, which set about sculpting a small porcelain block into the precise crown that had been specified.

Anyone under 30 will know this as “CAD/CAM” – computer-aided design / computer-aided manufacture. But instead of milling the prototype for a new carburetor, they were milling my tooth #14 (which I call Herbie).

(As you probably know, your teeth are numbered. You start with the top right wisdom tooth way in the back, which is #1, and go all the way around to #16; then drop down to #17, the wisdom tooth right under #16, and back around to the right. Those of us whose wisdom teeth now hang on leather bands around our necks [to intimidate potential adversaries] count from #2 to #31, skipping #16 and #17. William “the Refrigerator” Perry, who needs nothing around his neck to intimidate, and is available to appear at your next event, seems to be missing #6 thru #11 and #22 thru #27.)

Within a second or two of my dentist’s clicking GO, the computer reported that milling would take 17 minutes – the way your browser estimates the length of a download – which gave me time to return some phone calls (“I’m at the dentist, but I have 13 minutes and 12 seconds left to talk”) and my dentist time to go out for a beer, or whatever dentists do in these circumstances. (Call their brokers, more likely.)

In he came 17 minutes later, bing, bang, boom . . . and then . . . after the ritual “bite down, chop-chop” so many of us are familiar with (“No, it’s still too high,” you say, ten or twelve consecutive times, feeling increasingly embarrassed and guilty for being so difficult, when, really, what have you done wrong? But what if he keeps drilling deeper and deeper to make the fit and goes all the way through the crown to your nerve or – worse – breaks the crown and you have to start all over again? Could it be you are just being difficult? Or are setting your bite funny because of the Novocain?) . . . it was perfection.

A crown in a single visit.

To find a dentist near you who’s made the $100,000 investment and taken the training to master this system, click here. (The link’s in the box at lower right.) Despair not if you don’t find one; the listing is incomplete. Your own dentist may be off at CAD/CAM school as we speak. Thank you, Dr. Nassery.

Ahhhhhhh the World of Marketing and the Quick Fix!

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