The provision of dental care is undergoing a revolution with the advent of modern technologies such as teledentistry, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and 3D printing. However, more than 20% of patients have not seen a dentist in recent years. The American Dental Association (ADA) reports 59% of patients can’t afford regular visits. Meanwhile, 22% are afraid of dental care, and 19% have trouble finding convenient locations or scheduling appointments. Despite the benefits of regular dental check-ups, many people still face barriers to accessing care. New digital dentistry technologies have emerged due to the impact of the pandemic and evolving patient preferences. These aim to improve care delivery and strengthen the dentist-patient relationship.
The Role Of Technology In Dentistry
Digital dentistry is changing the landscape of dental care with advancements in electronic record-keeping, data analysis, and diagnostic tools. These innovations can lead to improved and more accessible dental care. Experts predict same-day care options will reduce office visits, making dental care more affordable. Advancements in digital information are enhancing dental diagnosis and treatment. Information like age, health history, and genome can reveal oral disease susceptibility. Personal genetics will guide future dental treatment choices for maximum effectiveness. Treatment may even be determined by the specific bacteria causing the issue.
Diagnostic tools are revolutionizing dental care with advanced digital imaging like the Canary and S-Ray. The Canary device uses a red laser to detect small cracks and caries in a three-second scan. The S-Ray maps teeth and gums in 3-D to detect cavities and disease. Experts predict S-Rays may be cheaper and safer than X-rays. Both systems do not expose patients to harmful radiation.
Next-Generation Diagnosis and Treatment In Dentistry
Dentists are now using lasers in both diagnosis and treatment procedures. Soft-tissue lasers are used for minor gum surgery, while hard-tissue lasers may replace dental drills in removing tooth decay. Computers control these lasers and offer more precise treatment. However, the high cost of these devices remains a barrier to their widespread use.
Advancements in biomaterials could eliminate the need for root canals. Harvard and the University of Nottingham have created a biomaterial that allows cavities to self-heal. Nanobots are being developed to straighten teeth, deliver anaesthesia, and treat diseases. Wearable toothpaste made of antimicrobial carbon nanotubes could fight bacteria. However, clinical trials are necessary to test efficacy and safety.
Technologies That Transforming The Field of Dentistry
Technology is revolutionizing dentistry by improving accuracy, efficiency, and patient experience. Advancements such as digital imaging, 3D printing, and laser dentistry are transforming how dentists diagnose, treat, and prevent oral health issues. These technologies improve patient outcomes and streamline dental procedures, making them faster and more efficient.
Dentistry Through Innovation
Dental care innovations are focusing on prevention. Toothbrushes are being designed with cameras and location-tracking technology. Timers and pressure sensors help improve brushing habits. Sensors are being developed to detect diseases from saliva or mouth tissue. They can also monitor heart rate, detect blood alcohol levels, and sense bad breath. A pH sensor in a mouthpiece detects acidic saliva linked to tooth decay and gum disease. Testing breath chemicals can diagnose diabetes, which worsens gum disease.
Teledentistry Expand Access To Care
COVID-19 caused dental offices to close temporarily for general care, resulting in lower patient volumes. Teledentistry offers a solution using digital tools like synchronous or asynchronous video. Recent survey data from the ADA’s Health Policy Institute indicates that this technology can help bridge the gap in dental care delivery.
The pandemic has increased the adoption of teledentistry technologies, reducing the risk of viral transmission and helping dentists comply with local health measures. Teledentistry tools can also help determine if a dental emergency exists and if immediate treatment is necessary. However, dentists must ensure compliance with health regulations when using telehealth technology, including HIPAA guidelines.
Virtual Reality For Dental Patients
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) could improve the patient experience during dental procedures. Patients can wear headsets that provide digital distractions, like televisions in dental offices. A study by Cedars-Sinai found that VR also helps with pain management. Using VR during procedures can create empathy between dentists and patients, leading to better care. Dental students can use VR to simulate dental procedures. This technology helps them gain experience in emergent issues that rarely occur. VR offers a digital alternative to hands-on training. It can create a safe, controlled environment for learning complex techniques.
Artificial Intelligence Improves Diagnostic Accuracy
AI algorithms are increasingly better at detecting tooth decay than dentists in radiographs. These algorithms use vast amounts of data to make evidence-based decisions, which gives them an advantage over human decision-making. As a result, AI can help improve diagnostic accuracy in dentistry. One of the challenges of AI is de-identifying patient data. It’s crucial to ensure complete anonymity. With anonymous dental data, AI can improve clinical treatment accuracy and generate student templates. These tools can aid in dental treatment analysis before irreversible procedures are performed.
CAD/CAM & Intraoral Imaging
CAD/CAM technology is used to create prostheses using milling. CAD means computer-aided design, and CAM means computer-aided manufacturing. These terms do not explain how prostheses are made. All CAD/CAM systems have three components: a scanner that digitizes geometry, software that processes data, and a production technology that fabricates the product. The software creates the data set needed for product fabrication.
CAD/CAM technology has improved the dental laboratory profession with faster, more predictable, consistent and relatively accurate restorations. The system is now in the dental surgery, allowing for chairside fabrication. Intra-oral cameras replace conventional impressions, saving time and offering indirect patient restorations in a single appointment. The software has been enhanced with a precise 3D reconstruction of the occlusal surface, making this a mature and beneficial system.
Dental Billing Code Verification
Dental coding is a complex and demanding part of daily dental practice. There are numerous dental codes for various procedures that must be understood. Selecting the correct dental code every time requires skilled and experienced staff. Not every dental practice has the necessary resources to handle dental coding efficiently. AI-assisted dental coding streamlines the process and reduces mental fatigue for practitioners. The software becomes more accurate over time, improving practice efficiency. Real-time data and AI technology help identify trends and patterns for further improvement.
Revamping Dental Practices with Imaging
According to a survey, 40% of dentists believe imaging can revamp their practice. Implementing new scanning and imaging techniques can enable dentists to create digital files for 3D printing and CAD/CAM dentistry. Imaging is also valuable for follow-up appointments, allowing for the checking of implant placement. This technology can enhance dental procedures’ accuracy, speed, and predictability, resulting in better patient outcomes.
The Bottom Line
The advancement of technology in dentistry is set to revolutionize the way dental practices operate. As basic imaging and diagnostics become more accessible through technology, the need for highly-trained professionals will decrease, and technologists will play a more significant role in dental practices. The future of dentistry is set to undergo substantial changes. Dental procedures could become less invasive with no drills or injections required. Treatment time will also become shorter and more accessible. The emphasis will be on prevention to reduce cavities and periodontal disease. Dentistry will increasingly focus on promoting healthy, white smiles. This shift will allow dentists to focus on complex procedures requiring their expertise, ultimately reducing costs.