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How technology is transforming dental industry

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Dr Rajeev Chitguppi, Technical Head (Marketing), ICPA Health Products talks about technology and dental industry

Modern technological advancements are helping dentists to upgrade their practice and enhance the quality of dental care. This article describes five such high-impact advancements: –

Teledentistry:

Teledentistry uses telecommunication technologies to deliver dental care. The use of telemedicine methods through various types of media (e.g., video) allows dental care providers to view patient data and provide real-time treatment recommendations remotely; likewise, patients can also take advantage of these modern technologies. The practice of teledentistry has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially during the pandemic time, due to its potential for improving access to oral health care, enhancing efficiency, and reducing costs. Telemedicine applications are in high demand because it is the only way to make health care services accessible and affordable. The patients can overcome geographical barriers and get their medical conditions evaluated with the help of new technologies.

Digital dentistry:

In the past, when a patient visited a dentist’s clinic for artificial teeth restorations or smile design, there was no easy way of showing them, before starting the treatment, what their future smile would look like. This meant that they had to trust the dentist’s opinion and hope for the best. The advent of digital dentistry has changed all this. Now, patients get to see their future smile when the dentist presents the treatment plan. Not only that, nowadays, patients get to wear and test-drive their future smile before the actual treatment begins, which has increased their acceptance of treatment plans.

Newer tools like 3D printing, digital visualization, and communication between the dentist, patient, and the dental laboratory have made digital dentistry a highly efficient framework for multidisciplinary dental teams. Moreover, the ever-evolving workflows have made it easy and convenient for even a novice dentist to accept challenging cases. The dentist can outsource the complex treatment planning part and receive optimized and customized treatment planning templates. The dentist will also receive guidance for clinical execution and lab work to deliver predictable results consistently.

Virtual Reality:

Virtual reality could help dental practitioners deliver better care to patients. Currently, dentists use ceiling-mounted televisions in their clinics to distract patients from the ongoing treatments. Soon, they can avail Virtual or Augmented Reality (AR) in the form of headsets that their patients wear to immerse themselves in a different digital environment. Users have reported a consistent and significant drop in perceived pain while using VR headsets. Thus, VR is helping in relaxing the patients and reducing their pain perception, thus creating empathy between the dentist and patient, resulting in improved care.

A few universities have introduced 3D virtual reality simulation technology in their training programs to help students enjoy a smooth transition from pre-clinical to clinical settings. Students wear glasses similar to those used to watch 3D movies and work by manipulating a simulated hand piece and mirror in a virtual mouth. This virtual environment helps them experience the real-world feel, practice their skills, and improve their motor skills and efficiency.

Artificial intelligence:

Artificial intelligence (AI) in dentistry is becoming ever more common, particularly in diagnostic software. AI makes use of billions of data points to develop algorithms and make consistently accurate decisions based on available evidence. AI software can provide an accurate diagnosis based on the presenting symptoms. AI can learn and understand patterns to offer the likely diagnosis for any given situation. AI tools are more consistent than dental practitioners in diagnosing dental caries (cavities) from x-ray examination.  Consistency and precision give them an edge over humans in detecting specific conditions.

Robot-assisted dental implant surgeries:

Neocis, a Miami-based healthcare start-up, has developed the “Yomi system,” a robot-assisted surgical device – the first and the only one approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for dental implant surgery. Yomi surgeons can perform full-arch implant surgery in 90 minutes and dual arch surgery in 2.5 hours. Same-day surgeries, reduced surgical time, improved surgical efficiency, and much greater accuracy combined with a minimally invasive approach can make robot-assisted implant surgery a gold standard in the future. A few dental schools in the USA have installed robot-assisted surgical devices to help students improve patient care. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (Boston University) became the first dental school in the USA to install two robotic surgical devices for dental implant surgeries.

Conclusion:

The bottom line is, new technologies are transforming dental practices beyond our imagination. However, not all of them are affordable at this time. Yet, more and more clinics are adopting newer technologies to improve patient care. Being aware and ready to adapt is the key for dentists to stay competitive in this market.

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