Home Healthcare Specialists The advantage of digital dentistry and its benefits
Last update on November 14, 2019

With the advancement of digital dentistry, going to the dentist in the Netherlands has largely become a quick and painless task.

Most, if not at all, dental practices in the Netherlands and around the world have incorporated some form of digital technology within their offices, whether it’s something as simple as a Facebook page or as complex as 3D radiography.

Not everyone immediately trusts new technology — especially when it comes to their healthcare — but Expatica, explains digital dentistry and how it benefits the dentists and the patients.

What is digital dentistry?

Digital dentistry refers to the introduction of new technology into the dental practice. Most medical fields have begun to digitise: digital medical records and online appointment setting are some of the most common examples, as they are often used directly by the patients themselves. Digital dentistry can refer to the practice of using technology in terms of dental practice websites and social media, but it also refers to the development of new tools and the replacement of outdated techniques to improve overall patient experience and outcomes.

What is digital dentistry

In the Netherlands, almost all dentists use some form of digital technology in and outside their offices, according to a study published in 2015. The study, which surveyed 1,000 general dental practitioners in the Netherlands, showed that each type of 15 different identified digital technologies was used by anywhere between 93.2 to 6.8 percent of all dentists, with administrative technology leading adoption.

Digital tools and techniques at Dutch dental practices

One of the most promising advancements in dentistry is digital smile design, which does not refer to just one technique but a holistic dentistry solution. It combines photo, video, powerful software and an eye for design to truly transform someone’s smile. With digital smile design, a dentist takes photos and videos of a patient’s entire face — not just the mouth — and uses software to not only edit the shape and size of the teeth, but their colour and overall appearance of the smile. The dentist can instantly create a digital design mock-up that shows the patient what they should expect when planning on veneers, braces or other orthodontic treatments.

Digital smile design was developed as a way to allow patients to co-design their own treatments, leading to an end result that is not only aesthetically pleasing but functional to accommodate their lifestyle. Conventional orthodontic treatments may focus primarily on the latter — ensuring that the teeth function well — but digital dentistry ensures that patients are also happy with the way their teeth look.

Another widely used technology is digital radiography, or digital X-rays. Over 90 percent of the surveyed dentists utilised digital intra-oral radiography; digital orthopantomograms, which are panoramic dental X-rays that show the entirety of the upper and lower jaw, was used by 57.2 percent of dentists. With traditional X-rays, patients must bite down on an uncomfortably hard device, while with digital X-rays, patients simply receive a small sensor — as well as up to 70–90 percent less radiation. Digital X-rays are also more environmentally friendly than conventional X-rays as they do not require chemical processing. It also cuts down on waiting times: the images are immediately available for viewing, unlike conventional X-rays.

Intraoral cameras and scanners, which can instantly display detailed images of hard-to-see areas in the mouth, were somewhat used according to the study, but newer technologies such as digital CAD/CAM systems have yet to be widely adopted: only 8.4 percent of Dutch dentists utilised them. CAD/CAM dentistry uses computers to design and manufacture dental products for restoration procedures such as crowns, bridges, dental implants and veneers. All of these dental products can be designed, produced and fit in one appointment while the patient is sitting in the chair. Because the waiting period is far reduced — and many have said the results are superior to traditional methods — interest in digital restoration may increase, especially in terms of aesthetic procedures.

Other digital technologies looking to make their way into every practice include The Wand, a computer-assisted anaesthesia system that replaces the standard syringe, which is often one of the reasons children and adults fear the dentist. The Wand doesn’t look like a needle, and delivers a controlled dose of local anaesthetic to the gums — when done properly, it’s a painless injection with little to no lingering numbness.

Digital tools for dental patients

Many people now look to the Internet to find a dentist in the Netherlands, so it has become a requirement to have an online presence — but not all dentists have one yet, with just 82 percent claiming an online presence. A simple website detailing office hours, instructions in case of dental emergencies, prices and directions to the practice may be enough — but many digital-savvy dentists have gone a little further, offering online appointment setting (34.4 percent) and alerts.

Social media is less often used, with only 13.2 percent utilising those platforms to communicate with patients. However, social media may be a boon for dental practices looking to tap into a tech-savvy millennial market, while allowing more online accessibility may bring in patients looking for more convenience with their dentist. After all, getting an appointment at the dentist is one of the major pain points for patients.

The adoption of digital technology at dentist offices in the Netherlands is growing steadily. As new products and techniques continue to be introduced to dental care, both patients and the dentist can reap the benefits.