Let’s be honest; we are all a little bit suspicious when thinking about dentists. In the United-States, more than seventy-five percent of the adults experience some fear when planning their next visit to a dental practice. In some extreme cases, it can even become a mental disorder known as Dentophobia.
Long are gone the times of the dentists exercising their “art” during county fairs. Most dental practices include state of the art technologies from intraoral cameras to UV curing and even Prostheses, Computer-Assisted manufacturing, and invisible braces. This article will analyze the numerous dental innovations that have already changed and will be the future of dental care.
Electric toothbrushes have been on the market for already quite some time, but smart ones offer technical capabilities that will change the way you brush your teeth. A smart toothbrush will include multiple gyroscopic sensors. By connecting to a smartphone, they will do more than just tracking the time you brushing time. They will also detect which tooth you brush.
When brushing your teeth, some apps will show give feedback on the intensity of the pressure applied. Some will also show which part of your smile you should concentrate on. For kids, gamification is a great way to make them look forward to brushing their teeth. The cherry on the pie is that all of the data will be readily available.
Motivation is critical for anything. A smart toothbrush brings brushing your teeth to the next level to ensure that your smile stays shiny and that you may not need the innovation introduced below.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, teledentistry has seen a surge in users. Being part of the telehealth trend, teledentistry focuses on three main components: teleconsultation, teletriage, and telemonitoring.
More and more dental practices offer remote consultations. Companies are flourishing in this field that allows safe remote diagnosis and teletriage. Depending on the first analysis, the remote provider will decide if a consultation is needed. For $59, TheTeleDentists will let you benefit from diagnostics, and if required, will connect you with the nearest dentist.
For remote hospitals, some companies such as Teledentistry.com even provide dental carts that include all the necessary equipment to perform a first diagnostics by connecting with a dentist on the other side of the screen.
Often, a second visit to the dentist is needed to check that the denture fits correctly or that the treatment has been successful. Telemonitoring is a convenient and safe way for both the patients and the dentists. Companies such as Dental Monitoring goest one step further and offer complete solutions for orthodontists to remotely check treatments’ progress. Teleorthodontics is the next step in the evolution of Telehealth.
Digital imaging & Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence is part of the technologies that will be the future of healthcare. When coupled to 2D, 3D, and even intraoral digital imaging techniques used in Dentomaxillofacial Radiology (DMFR), machine learning and deep learning algorithms change how dentists conduct diagnostics.
The algorithms offer automated diagnosis and recognition of anatomical landmarks used for orthodontic treatment planning. For provisional/definitive restoration, digital imaging provides an unprecedented level of accuracy that opens the doors to computer-aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technology.
You remember having to bite on gluey silicone or alginate paste. Nowadays, intraoral scanning offers better accuracy and greatly improves the patient’s comfort.
The Israelian company Orca offers artificial intelligence-based software to use in diagnostics, orthodontics, and prosthetics. Overjet is a startup founded by MIT Graduate that received funding from the prestigious Harvard’s President’s Innovation Challenge. They developed software for Dental insurance companies to automate the claim review process, reducing the cost of review and improving consistency. When using it, Dental group practices can also improve the quality of care, increase practice profitability, and standardize patient care.
Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality
During their training, Dental students spend hours practicing on dummies. Nobody wants to experience root canal treatment without a minimum of training from an aspiring dentist. Virtual reality realism progressed immensely in the last couple of years. Thanks to the improvement in Graphics Processing Units (GPU).
The use of haptic gloves allows for critically important touch feedbacks. Grand View Research estimated the size of the Virtual Reality market to $5.1 by 2025. Same as VR simulators are now the norm in aviation, they are invading the medical training fields, from surgery to dentistry.
Virtual Reality is a way for students to improve their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Being completely immersive, aspiring dentists can experience a real clinical setting with potential issues during the treatment. To have the right to make mistakes is critical to becoming better. Will it be for dental training or any other skill? Virtual Reality is one of these innovations in dentistry that will make practitioners better and decrease our fears.
Computer-Assisted Manufacturing & 3D-Printing
Prosthetics is one of the main procedures in dental care. It is estimated that one in two adults have some dental restoration. Digital imaging improvements are directly linked to the development of computerized denture manufacturing. Computer Assisted Design (CAD) and Computer Assisted Manufacturing (CAM) are used both in the dental office or dental laboratory.
A temporary restoration is manufactured right after the extraction. Dentists upload a 3D picture, and the automated manufacturing unit will process it in a matter of minutes. It improves the aesthetics for the patient, but it also reduces the number of visits, increases revenues for the dental practice, and allows the patient to appreciate the final restoration even more. The benefits are numerous for all parties.
3D Printing is one of the technology on the brink of revolutionizing medicine. In dentistry, CAD and 3D Printing offer many possibilities: aligners, implants, dentures, crowns…The benefits are numerous. The company Formlabs offers dental 3D printers to use directly in the dental office. No need to wait for days anymore for a temporary fixture, they can be printed right away, and your smile will always stay intact.
Tooth Sensors & Wearables
Researchers at the Tufts University School of Engineering developed a tiny sensor that sticks to the tooth, just like digital tattoos, and tracks the wearer’s physiological state. Is-it the ultimate wearable? We think so.
The sensor connects with Bluetooth to a smartphone and provides continuous measures relative to nutrient consumption, bacteria levels in the saliva, and other health indicators. Initially developed to monitor dietary intake, the 2-by-2 mm sensor has potential not only for hygienists and dentists. It could act as an open door to analyzing health status by tracking the saliva changes.
Regenerative medicine has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Using patients’ stem cells, new organs can be grown. Teeth are complex. They combine three different types of hard tissue and develop through a complicated process. Soft tissue, blood vessels, connective tissue, and hard tissue bond together to form a functional entity.
Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the Medical University of Vienna, and the Harvard Medical school recently published an article in Nature showing all the cell types and differentiation pathways to produce adult teeth in mice and humans.
This work could prove very useful for regenerative dentistry to grow new teeth from the patient’s cell. Tissue engineering and regenerative medicine (TERM) is progressing fast. Yoichi Yamada et al. (2020) published a review article of the clinical studies performed in this field. Among 20 studies, 16 showed therapeutic benefits for cell-based dental regeneration. Notably, none of them reported adverse events.
Companies like Theradaptive are developing a therapeutic platform to promote native tissue repair, including dental tissue. The road before growing your teeth is a test tube will still be long, but researchers are moving fast. We can hope that in the coming years, dentures will be a concept of the past.