John C. Chao, DDS

Research Associate Professor, University at Buffalo, SUNY
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Ostrow School of Dentistry, USC

(626) 308-9104

News & Press



John C. Chao, D.D.S., M.A.G.D
Anxiety Management,
Behavior Science,
Faculty, USC School of Dentistry

Dentist's Work Like A Master Swiss Watchmaker

"A dentist doing dentistry is like a master Swiss watchmaker repairing a fine watch in the dark while someone is spitting on his hand." This wry comment is attributed to a well-known professor of dentistry at USC in the '60's. In many respects this statement reflects the state of the art at that time. In those days dentists used belt-driven engines, slow hand pieces (drills), dim lighting, and weak vacuum systems for suctioning and relatively un-ergonomic chairs requiring stand-up working posture. Despite, or perhaps because of the challenge presented by these handicaps, dedicated dentists trained under those difficult conditions are well known for their fine, time-honored work, much of which has lasted until the present day.

Today, dentistry is done under a much better, "operator-friendly" environment. The intervening years have brought about such improvements as ergonomic chairs allowing for sit-down dentistry, fast and quiet motors, high-intensity lighting and strong vacuum systems. Because of these technological advances the dental profession has been able to more efficiently to provide traditional procedures and, at the same time, also provide new, exciting procedures in the field of restorative dentistry (fillings, crowns, bridges and cosmetic veneers), root canal treatment, periodontal (gum) treatment and implantology.

These innovations, grouped together, are called, "Microdentistry." The centerpiece of microdentistry is "vision-enhancement." The latest, most exciting development in the vision-enhancement is the dental operating microscope. The latter brings not only high-resolution magnification, but also shadow-less (coaxial) illumination to the field of operation. For example, while removing decay, the dentist not only sees a greatly magnified view of the cavity, but also sees the cavity brightly lit up with co-axial lighting, i.e., with the light shining in the same direction as the line of sight without any hint of shadows. Using the dental operating microscope, the dentist is aided by specially designed, miniaturized hand and rotary instruments to precisely removed decay without damaging sound tooth structure or injuring the dental nerve. This precise, conservative approach to filling a tooth allows the dentist to save teeth from such unfortunate events as a tooth fracture or root canal treatment. The same precision and conservative approach aided in the development of popular smile makeovers with veneers.

In root canal treatment the use of the operating microscope is especially beneficial. High resolution magnification under co-axial light allows the dentist to identify causes of abscess, such as a cracked tooth or fractured roots. Enhanced vision allows the dentist to locate aberrant roots that were difficult to find under normal working conditions.

Dental laboratory technicians support the dentist in the construction of crowns, bridges and implants, among other ancillary services. The laboratory microscope allows the technician to work with the same degree of accuracy and precision as that of the dentist working with the operating microscope. This cooperation and team-work leads to functional, cosmetic and long lasting restorations.

Indeed dentistry has come a long way due to ever-evolving changes in science and technology. As explained above, the benefit to the public has been immeasurable. What has not changed is the steadfast dedication of the men and women who make up the dental profession, not the least of which are the dental assistants, the dental hygienists, the technicians and the other members of the staff. They are the caring professionals who stand ready to serve you. See your dentist on a regular basis. Don't forget to go!


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