July 2015 - Prosthodontist in Johannesburg
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July 2015

By: Dr Gerald Kaplan

Dentistry the 1970’s was very different to the way it is today…

In those days the restorative material in everyday use was silver amalgam. Today it is tooth coloured composite. Many still believe that amalgam is still a good material because composite is very difficult to manipulate to create the ideal tooth shape and form.

But fashions have changed and people want white fillings. Gold continues to be the most ideal restorative material but cosmetic dentistry to provide white fillings is its competition. Scientific research has made major headway in all fields of dentistry. Periodontics, endodontics, orthodontics and material science have all experienced major advances and changes. Today we have a deeper understanding in all these areas.

A major breakthrough in restorative dentistry came with the ability to bond tooth coloured restorative material to tooth enamel. Materials have continued to develop and are still doing so. The materials available today provide a beautiful colour match and eliminate the need for major to tooth destruction particularly in the fracture of front teeth. The capping of teeth has always been an art and science. The limitation has always been the availability of the most ideal material which has now moved from porcelain fused to gold to all ceramic restorations. The cosmetic results achievable today are really unbelievable.

The most significant advance in the last quarter-century has been the development and understanding of implant dentistry. There has been a total revolution in the approach to replacing missing teeth and also in giving denture wearers a viable alternative to a fixed restoration. Although root canal therapy continues to remain the treatment of choice in retaining a compromised tooth tooth there is great debate whether to extract the tooth and replace it with an implant or do a canal. Certainly in the case of a failed root canal implant dentistry offers a marvellous solution in replacing a missing tooth. Orthognathic surgery was in its rudimentary stages but now is a common procedure in the correction of major jaw deformities. Maxillofacial surgery has advanced by leaps and bounds.

How have I kept abreast of all these changes in dentistry? My three years of graduate school in Boston in the mid-70s was for me a major leap forward in gaining knowledge that at that time was not available in South Africa. I was able to bring that knowledge back with me and have been in private practice ever since.

Over the years I have attended many continuing education courses in order to fulfil the requirements of continual professional development (CPD) which is essential to keep abreast of modern trends. My involvement in teaching has also helped to keep me in touch with the modern world. A new element that is beginning to make major inroads into modern dentistry is digital technology. One wonders how long it would take for this new technology to surpass the time-tested techniques of the present and past techniques.

Over my 45 years of practice I have gained a vast amount of experience in becoming a fine diagnostician and in being able to advise patients on how to continue to enjoy long-term dental health. I also continue to see how the dentistry that I provided my patients over the years continues to give them good service. There has been value in their investment. Dentistry continues to remain an exciting profession and I enjoy being at the cutting edge.