What does “Digital” Mean?

by Larry Emmott on September 13, 2006

in General

Digital information can be many things including words, numbers, photos, colors, sounds, movies, x-rays or even a solid object.  Once an item is digitized there are three significant things you can do with it. You can store transmit and manipulate the information electronically. That’s it, that’s the digital revolution. At first glance it may not seem too important but in action it literally changes everything. What the difference between Digital and Analog? In the most literal sense to digitize something means to turn it into digits or numbers. In a more practical sense it means turning something into the electronic language a computer can understand.Jennifer_Animation

Humans experience an analog world. Vision is an analog experience, because we see infinitely smooth gradations of shapes and colors. However most analog events, can be simulated digitally. For instance, photographs in newspapers consist of an array of dots that are either black or white, a classic digital format. From a distance, the viewer does not see the dots, but only lines and shading, which appear to be continuous. Although digital representations are approximations of analog events, they are extremely useful because they are easy to store, transmit and manipulate electronically.

The next frontier in digital technology for dentistry will be digitizing solid objects like teeth and crowns. This is already being done with CAD CAM systems like Cerec. An even better example is Invisalign.The sample shown here is an Invisalign virtual model. It can be manipulated on screen to view the teeth from any direction. Treatment options are easy to simulate. In the very near future we will be able to eliminate plaster models and use a virtual model like this Invisalign example for all our diagnostic treatment planning and documentation needs.

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