Innovations in health and medicine are commonplace. From activity trackers to artificial intelligence, technology is playing a bigger and bigger role in many aspects of care. But for some, these innovations are largely theoretical or impractical. The role of genetic analysis, for example, is common, yet its consumer applications are largely around ethnic heritage and esoteric traits such as wet or dry ear wax and flushing from alcohol consumption. The future is coming, but not as fast as some may wish.
A trip to the dentist might change this perspective. Dentistry is in the throes of a revolution that offers significant advances that read right out of the digital health playbook. From imagining to empowered consumers, technology can make you go wow. Or in this case, ahhh!
Digital imaging. X-ray has come out of the dark room to offer electronic imaging that provides both speed and simplicity. And advances in cone beam tomography add another tech tool for today’s dental office that enhances image quality as well as efficiency. Images, combined with CAD (computer-aided design) are now part of the clinical plan that can be shared with patients in real-time and offer a comprehensive view of diagnoses, procedures, and potential outcomes.
Material science. Modern dental materials offer key advantages for today’s patients. For example, nanoparticles provide unique feature combinations from strength to aesthetic qualities. Advanced materials can also provide the basis for important clinical advantages including supporting bone growth and antimicrobial activity.
Tissue regeneration. Preservation and restoration of oral tissue are essential parts of care. Today’s procedures and treatments can facilitate direct tissue regeneration. Even the role of stem cells is being explored in dentistry. Science suggests that these cells may regenerate dental pulp in damaged teeth and help avoid procedures such as root canals.
Virtual reality. VR isn’t only about gaming. Today’s technology offers advanced and effective control of both pain and anxiety. VR enables the patient to journey outside of the dental office to a virtual environment that is more soothing. The experience is improved for both patient and care provider and may even lead to better outcomes.
Robots! Yes, even robots have become part of the news in dental innovation. More common in the traditional operating room, the role of robotic assistance and robots in oral surgery—filling the need for qualified humans–is a potential near-term reality.