During my formative years, I was always amazed at how my father kept learning at his profession. He was a business executive and was one of the first executives to implement a computer into his business. It was a huge piece of equipment, and I remember a picture of him standing next to the computer in the Wall Street Journal. His message to me when I attended dental school was to keep learning — there are always new frontiers in every profession.
I attended dental school at the University of Michigan and will always be thankful that I went to that particular dental school. Each semester I would have a course in occlusion, and it paid huge dividends when I pursued a career in orthodontics. I also developed an interest in the temporomandibular joint as well as the musculature that controlled the movements of the mandible. At the time, our diagnosis of temporomandibular dysfunction consisted of a thorough medical history and clinical exam along with a muscle palpation examination. Splint therapy was initiated, but treatment was driven by symptoms.
Today, the orthodontic profession can evaluate skeletal asymmetry by utilizing 3D technology. Taking a CBCT scan in maximum intercuspation gives the clinician a functional radiograph. Analyzing the condylar position informs the clinician of skeletal asymmetries we could never see with our 2D radiographs. We can now accurately analyze all three dimensions (anterior-posterior, transverse, and vertical) for each patient.
In the past, my dentist friends told me that they would refer patients to the orthodontist for braces when they were in their teens. The patients would start bruxing in their twenties and have TMD symptoms in their thirties. Thanks to 3D technology, we can put a stop to that pattern. Orthodontists will soon be swamped with business when the dentists realize that we can treat their patients to a seated condylar position before they perform their restorative work.
3D technology also has helped orthodontists become leaders in screening for constricted airways. I cannot think of a more important benefit we can perform for our patients. 3D technology not only helps the clinician detect a constricted airway — but also gives us the necessary information, so we can treat the problem.
Change is extremely difficult when your practice has been a successful business model. However, 3D technology is worth “learning” what it can do for you and your patients. The amount of important information you can acquire from a CBCT scan is amazing. Your professional journey is far from over. Keep learning!
Dr. Robert Kaspers