Not many people are thrilled about a trip to the dentist.
It depends on the procedure, of course. A simple cleaning is tolerable, but a root canal? Well, let’s just say it’s not something most people can sink their teeth into.
But, as unappealing as it is, a trip to the dentist the last decade or so, has been made more tolerable by the increasing use of plastic dental components and entire devices. Why?
Comfort: Plastic just has better “mouth feel” than metal; it’s warmer than cold, hard metal, and, in the case of braces, more comfortable and less obtrusive.
Safety: Metal dental equipment has to be cleaned and sterilized after every use, an extra step or steps that increases cost and opens up the possibility for contamination. Plastic dental equipment and supplies are typically one-use items, thus increasing safety and reducing costs. But, if need be, plastic dental devices can be sterilized also.
Costs: Because of the relative low price of oil, the source material for plastic resin, plastic dental parts have an inherent cost advantage over metal.
Now let’s take a look at the most common plastic dental devices and components:
Time was, when dental trays were almost exclusively made of metal — typically stainless steel. Now they’re almost exclusively made of plastic, produced though plastic injection molding. As simple as they are, dental trays are an indispensable part of the modern dental office and contribute much to operational efficiency.
Distinct from medical syringes, dental syringes are highly specialized, often because of the tight environment they operate in. That specialization often dictates their shapes, which can be straight but, more often than not, curved. Plastic, with its superb malleability, is ideal for forming these curvilinear forms.
Remember these from a trip to the dentist when you were a child? Uncomfortable but necessary for kids and those under anesthesia, these wedge-shaped bite blocks play an important role for patients that have a difficult time keeping their mouths open wide during a procedure. While still not exactly comfortable, today’s plastic mouth props are light-years ahead of their fore-bearers, and thank goodness for that!
So open up and say “ahhhh” to plastics at the dentist’s office!