A fear of the dentist is one of the most common fears and phobias in adults, with around 36% of the population noting it as their biggest fear, phobia or anxiety. People have always avoided visiting the dentist, whether this is down to their fear or having had an unpleasant experience. Others simply dislike the feeling of being in the dentist’s chair. We also live in an increasingly demanding world, where things such as dental appointments take a backseat.
However, it is important to note the link between oral and general health. Leaving some dental issues, such as plaque buildup or bleeding gums, can not only cause your overall oral health to deteriorate but can be linked to other health issues such as heart disease and diabetes.
The dental industry is set to become one of the most advanced in the medical world, with huge new technological advancements being made constantly. Even in the last decade, technology advancements in dentistry have come in leaps and bounds and have cut time spent in the dentist chair by a considerable amount.
With these advancements, more and more patients are likely to come for their appointments or have certain treatment, especially if they know the contact between them and the dentist is shorter. With this in mind, here are some predicted technology advancements that are set to shape the future of dentistry.
Our lives have become increasingly more ‘smart’ in recent years and many people will have homes and cards filled with connected smart devices to make their lives easier. From automated coffee machines to video doorbells, it makes sense that the bathroom is the next room in the house to be revolutionised.
Smart toothbrushes are set to become huge in the next few years and some devices, with simpler technologies, are already on the market to monitor brushing length and hardness. Some kids’ toothbrushes even come with apps, so that your child can play games linked to brushing their teeth. It is said that toothbrushes which are able to detect oral health issues such as plaque buildup or cavities, are next to be developed.
Augmented reality is set to be hugely popular in the coming years across all aspects of our lives. However, in terms of dental technology advancements, augmented reality will allow dentist to provide computer-generated images of what their teeth will look like following dental treatment. With younger patients, this will likely be a huge selling point as they will already be used to the technology used – AR is used on social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat to create filters – and this quick process will allow them to decide whether or not they want to go ahead with treatment and are getting the final look that they are after.
Augmented reality is also being used for educational purposes and training the next generation of dentists. There are some simulators available for dental students where their movements are tracked whilst practising on a mannequin and immediate feedback is presented. This helps them to identify areas which can be improved and learn how to develop their skills in the process.
With reconstructive and aesthetic procedures, augmented reality is a great way to let patients know what they will look like following their treatment and can configure and change aspects of their treatment if they want. All on 4 dental implants is an example of a treatment where AR is being trialled and used regularly. It allows the patient to see what their smile and teeth will look like following their implant treatment.
If, as an adult, you are reluctant to visit the dentist, imagine how children, elderly people and patients with special needs feel. Often, these people have poorer oral hygiene simply down to their complex needs or dislike of the dentist. Another issue in dentistry is the lack of practices in and around rural areas. These people can rarely get access to the dentist and almost always never have choice or selection in terms of dental surgery or treatments.
Teledentistry is a form of telehealth, which combines telecommunications and dentistry to provide clinical services and information to patients who need easier access to oral and dental care. Some teledentistry services are supported by an app, which allows the patient to take photos of any issues and send them to a dentist, or set up a video call where the dentist can actually see the issue and talk to the patient and set up an appointment if necessary. Remote care and health services increased massively during the covid pandemic and many health services are responding by increasing their mobile and telephone services.
Computer Assisted Design
3D printing is a huge technological advancement across a number of sectors and certainly doesn’t need any introduction. In healthcare, it became especially prominent when it was used to help with medicine production, prosthetics and even organ replications. During the pandemic, its use was further highlighted when it was used to bypass certain supply chains to meet the demands of hospitals. As technology is set to become an integral part of the overall healthcare spectrum, it is also vastly becoming incorporated into dentistry. Computer assisted design (CAD), which includes 3D-printing, is already revolutionising the dental industry and is being used to create low-cost treatments, but create effective digital dental labs.
For example, traditionally when a patient needs a crown or a bridge, the dentist needs to make a mould of the tooth and then create a temporary crown fixture, whilst the lab makes a permanent one to be fitted at a later date. With 3D printing technology, the tooth is drilled in preparation for the crown and the dentist takes a photo of the tooth with a special computer. This image is then inputted into the 3D printing machine which makes the crown implant right there in the dental surgery.
3D printers are also able to create orthodontic models, retainers, aligners and surgical guides, as well as dental equipment, much more precisely and in a shorter time frame. These tasks would take much longer using traditional methods and this helps to improve workflow and reduce the risk of error.