Health Alert: Modern dentistry

NATIONAL - You could see some changes at your dentist office as new technology and tools revolutionize the business.

Jacob Koch is a second-year dental student at the University of Maryland. "Next semester we go into the clinic, which is where we work with real patients. So we're pretty excited."

The school is a test site for new dental equipment, so students are cutting their teeth on cutting-edge technology.

One sleek-looking chair, for example, is, according to Dr. Andrea Morgan, "a very smart chair because it's a computer."

Among its many functions is to remember the special health needs of each patient. Dr. Morgan explains, "So when Mrs. Jones is in the chair and we've logged her in as to being the patient in the chair, we would go to set her up and the chair would say, okay, but I would have to do it slower."

The chair also keeps patients from exposure to bacteria in the water lines, Dr. Morgan says. "The chair shuts itself down and it'll allow itself to be flushed with a little cleansing system that will allow the chair to clean itself."

And at the school, infection control is state-of-the-art. Dr. Morgan says, "You can actually wash your hands with a foot pedal; you don't have to touch anything."

Hands-free dryers - and cabinets with motion sensors - keep hands sanitary. Students use quieter, electric hand pieces and take digital X-rays that expose patients to less radiation.

And the tools have other benefits, according to Dr. Morgan, "If we can bring it up on the monitor and show Mrs. Jones what the tooth looks like now that it's broken and has a big cavity, and we go in to take out the cavity, she at least understands what the procedure involves."

The University of Maryland Dental School is an offshoot of the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, the world's first dental school.

Posted by Chantelle Janelle