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Visiting Scholar Researches High-Tech Dentistry

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Written by Adam Zewe

Sebastian Patzelt, DMD, DrMedDent, is a self-described techie. Dr. Patzelt, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Freiburg in Germany, has put his love of technology to good use during a two-year visiting scholarship at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (UMSOD). He has conducted several novel research projects involving digital dental technology.

Patzelt is a firm believer that digital dentistry technology is here to stay. For example, the U.S. market for intraoral scanners is expected to grow by 10 percent each year through 2020. But some products are so new that little research exists about the potential of the high-tech devices.

That's where Patzelt comes in. He conducted a first-of-its kind study to determine if intraoral scanners can be used to scan edentulous jaws of dental patients. In another study, funded by the American Dental Association, Patzelt and Associate Professor Gary Hack, DDS '79, compared the trueness and precision of several leading intraoral scanners. Patzelt and Assistant Professor Guadalupe Garcia, DMD, also investigated the accuracy of using intraoral scanners to scan dental implants. He recently published a paper in the Journal of the American Dental Association about the time-efficiency of intraoral scanners. His research revealed that using an intraoral scanner could save a dentist about 20 minutes versus conventional procedures. "For a dental practitioner, this is highly relevant. If you can save 20 minutes, that enables you to treat one more patient," he says.

This technology also has implications for dental education. Patzelt, Assistant Professor Pauline Garrett, DDS, and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Karen Faraone, DDS '78, MA, researched digital dentistry software to determine the effectiveness of using intraoral scanners to grade a student's work. Using this technology, faculty members may be able to scan a dental student's preparation or wax-up and then compare it to a master preparation/wax-up stored in the software.

Though Patzelt will return to Germany at the end of August, he is excited for the potential for future collaborations with UMSOD. He looks forward to continuing to study digital dentistry as new advancements reach the marketplace. "I think digital technology is definitely the future of dentistry, but there is still a lot of potential to research and develop new technology," he remarks.

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