Jeffrey Piaskowy knew he wanted to be a dentist when he was 9 years old. He remembers having positive experiences with his dentist and orthodontist, despite spending seven years wearing braces.
At 31, Piaskowy has fulfilled his goal. He is a dentist with AvantGarde Dental in Steamboat Springs, and he is up to date on the new technologies and advancements being made in dentistry.
"I think it's absolutely amazing what we can offer in our seemingly small community," Piaskowy said. "It's great to offer so many services to people so they don't have to travel to Denver or Glenwood Springs or Grand Junction."
There are few procedures that dental patients can't have done in Northwest Colorado. Dentists and oral surgeons in the area can perform anything from teeth bleaching to repairing broken jaws. What Piaskowy enjoys talking about most are the cutting-edge advancements in his field.
Two big advances are cosmetic related: Invisalign and quality of porcelain veneers.
Invisalign is a relatively new system created to perfect teeth alignment but not necessarily perfect a person's bite, which is why a certified dentist, such as Piaskowy, is able to take a patient through the Invisalign system.
"Invisalign has definitely made it possible to do cosmetic dentistry with orthodontics," he said. "There will always be a place for conventional wires and brackets, but a lot of people just want their teeth straight and are not worried about the perfect bite."
Anyone who had braces knows the timetable for getting them removed is ever-changing. One advantage of Invisalign, which uses nearly invisible plastic molds to shift teeth, is that there is a more precise estimate as to how long a person needs to use the molds, Piaskowy said.
Another advancement is the improvements to porcelain veneers. Porcelain is a material that has been around for decades, but crowns were more commonplace than veneers. Today, dentists are able to resurface the original tooth and bond the perfect veneer without having to remove as much natural tooth as needed to put on a crown.
"What we can do now is truly equal to what tooth enamel looks like," Piaskowy said. "Five years ago, it was not at the same level as now. It astounds me now. I put someone's new smile on and I'm like, 'wow.'"
Piaskowy uses da Vinci veneers as seen on the ABC show "Extreme Makeover," and he swears by their quality and beauty.
"You look at all those before and after pictures and you can see the difference in technology," he said.
"The da Vinci labs have come up with the most perfect porcelain I've ever seen in my life."
But cosmetic dentistry is just one area of the field.
A large part of denistry continues to be repairing people's teeth, inserting fillings and performing more difficult but common procedures. That's where lasers have come in. Though drills aren't necessarily going anywhere, they have had to make some room for lasers near dental chairs in Steamboat Springs.
Piaskowy uses a bleaching laser as well as a soft-tissue laser, which is mainly used by a hygienist to remove bacteria or tartar.
Steven Diehl of Steamboat Dental Group recently purchased a $55,000 hard-tissue water laser from Biolase. The biggest difference between the Waterlase and a drill is that the laser generates its power with water instead of heat, preventing the dentist from heating up sensitive teeth.
With the Biolase product, which Scott Eivins also uses at Dental Center of Steamboat Springs, Diehl can perform some periodontal procedures he previously was unable to do. "There are a lot of phases of dentistry. It's the newest most high-tech device dentists are using, in my opinion," Diehl said.
Colorado, in general, is very progressive with its dentistry, Diehl added, and noted that of the 2,000 Waterlase lasers in use, 40 of them are in use in offices in Colorado.
Dentists also can use the Biolase on such things as cavities, and it has worked great on children.
"I fixed four cavities on a kid with no shot at all," Diehl said. "At 4, a shot is the hardest."
Shots often are difficult for grown men and women, too, but the Waterlase is designed to make dentistry less painful for people by also taking away shots.
Still, with all due respect to dentists of Northwest Colorado, most people still prefer to keep their visits to the dentist at a minimum, no matter the comfort or advances in technology.