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Latest Innovations in Dentistry that you should know about

Dentistry has evolved over the last thousand years. In the past, going to the dentist was depicted as one of the scariest human experiences, further popularized in rhymes, shows, and movies. It wasn’t far from the truth either, as dental procedures were painful and time-consuming.

Dental evolution has rapidly progressed ever since and keeps evolving to make it a seamless, painless, and comfortable experience for us. It’s safe to say that technology has made the dentist visit a welcome experience for patients, and dental anxiety can be a thing of the past today.

People are more aware that dental health is intricately tied to overall health and how important, regular dentist visits are. The future of dentistry never looked brighter with the latest innovations and trends in the industry.

Let’s look at the latest trends in dentistry and how they will affect your dental health.

1. Laser Dentistry

Laser dentistry has clear benefits as it allows for minimally invasive dental procedures. It’s a versatile treatment used for procedures such as teeth whitening, removing tooth decay, treating hypersensitivity, sterilizing root canals, preparing the tooth for a filling, gum reshaping, and eradication of lesions.

Lasers are preferred by dentists and patients alike for a smooth and comfortable dental experience. They reduce the need for anesthesia and sutures. Since lasers sterilize gums, the risk of infections is less likely. There is less healing time, and patients lose less blood than in conventional surgical dental procedures.

Lasers are a sustainable dental technology, and you can expect to see their usage more commonly in dental clinics. Call your dental clinic and inquire about the use of lasers for common dental procedures. Make sure that your dentists have the right education and experience in using lasers.

2. Artificial intelligence

There are exciting developments in the use of AI in dentistry, as it is all poised to transform dental processes and patient experience. The AI algorithms help in clinical decision-making and further find the best modalities for patients.

Dentists can analyze health data, especially genomic data, which helps them understand each patient’s health better, offer personalized dental care and treatment, and even gauge the success of outcomes.

With AI, researchers can now quantify immune cells around oral cancer cells, give accurate insights into their spread and resistance to cancer, and determine the chances of survival. It can also identify tooth decay and periodontal disease.

Another area where AI can transform dentistry is the introduction of Robo-dentists. Robots will not replace dentists, but robotic technologies in dentistry will enhance surgical results.

Chances are that you have already encountered robotic procedures conducted under the supervision of your dentist. For instance, robotics is used to perform minimally invasive dental procedures such as teeth cleaning, teeth extractions, filling cavities, attaching the crown, and even Invisalign! Invisalign’s foundation is based on our knowledge and understanding of tooth movement. It applies AI in planning for desired tooth movement and together, helps dentists successfully correct for crowding and spacing issues.

AI and robotic technologies in dentistry improve accuracy, precision, consistency, and successful outcomes. AI and robotics also come into play during the planning and placing of dental implants. The technology greatly reduces the risk of nerve damage by 3D mapping the jaw’s structure and helps improve patient experience and outcome. Robotics directly helps in both preoperative and surgical phases of the dental implant procedure.

3. Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality

The use of Augmented Reality (AR) is well known in gaming applications. However, there is a huge opportunity in dentistry for both educational and clinical uses.

AR is used in aesthetic and reconstructive dental procedures. Patients can see what they would look like post-treatment from their phone or tablet with virtual models of their new teeth. They can work with their dentists and decide how they’d like their teeth to look, from the color, height, shape to spacing before the procedure.

In training and education, AR is used to demonstrate various techniques on dental models and allows students of dentistry to practice their skills. Students perform dental procedures on AR-instilled mannequins that provide them with real-time feedback to immediately identify areas where they can improve and master their skills.

Virtual Reality (VR) shouldn’t be confused with AR. It’s a headset that transports the viewer to alternate reality or a radically different virtual environment. Patients are given headsets to ease anxiety, distract them with soothing immersive environments, and offer a pleasant experience.

A virtual reality camera helps dental surgeons to stream their surgical operations to several students and aspiring surgeons anywhere in the world. Observers can learn and even virtually assist the surgeons. VR can help improve empathy skills in dentists through simulations that help them get into the patients’ psyche.

4. CAD, CAM, and 3D-printing

Computer-assisted design (CAD) and computer-assisted manufacture (CAM), including 3D-printing, are revolutionizing the dental industry and expanding its scope with more efficient and low-cost digital labs.

For example, the conventional method of attaching a crown involves the dentist making a mould of the tooth, making a temporary crown, and waiting for the lab to make a permanent crown. With CAD/CAM technology, the dentist drills the affected tooth to prepare it for the crown. A picture is clicked with 3D printing, which allows a 3D scan of the tooth, displaying the most accurate representation transmitted to a machine that makes the crown right in the office. With 3D printing technology, the dentist can fit the crown with precision all in one sitting.

CAD, CAM, and 3D-printing technologies make dental repairs and restorations such as manufacturing crowns, dentures, and bridges faster and easier.

3D printing helps create dental impressions of patients’ teeth and orthodontic models without the conventional uncomfortable and time-consuming method. It gets a digitized image of the patient’s teeth to create an accurate orthodontic model. Such digital impressions also eliminate the risks, such as cracked and deteriorated casts. A 3D printer enables the dentist to develop specialized dental instruments, eliminating the need to buy additional products. 3D printing can turn digital models into actual prosthetics.

5. Digital X-rays & Intra-oral camera

Digital X-rays are replacing traditional radiographs in various dental clinics because of their speed and efficiency. Dentists use them for multiple purposes like finding cavities, helping check if they’ve performed their root canal procedure correctly, inspect the bone below the teeth to see if there is enough support, and the placement of an implant.

Unlike radiographs, where a film is used, the dentist places an electronic sensor inside the patient’s mouth to capture the image. The digital image is transferred to a computer and gives the dentist the option to compare previous and current and compare them for future analysis of dental health. It’s a much safer process than radiographs since the use of X-rays reduces the radiation dose significantly.

Intra-oral cameras have made the dentist visit an enjoyable one for many patients. Previously, patients would have to open their mouths as wide as possible, yet the dentist couldn’t see what they were looking for. Not only is it an uncomfortable experience but also a painful one for some patients.

Intra-oral cameras have a mirror with a camera on it that helps capture clear and detailed images that are easy for dentists to explain to their patients. The equipment comes in handy for various restorative dental procedures, including Invisalign, making it a quick and painless experience for patients with better outcomes.

6. Regenerative dentistry

Regenerative dentistry is one of the most exciting areas where there’s been some groundbreaking research. It’s an assumption that humans will lose their natural teeth with age, damage, or neglect. But regenerative dentistry challenges this idea with studies that confirm the possibilities of self-healing teeth and biological therapy for decayed and damaged teeth.

Researchers from the University of Nottingham and Harvard University have developed fillings that enable dentin growth and promote tooth healing. The latest research from Karolinska Institutet in 2020 mapped the differentiation pathways of teeth cells and discovered new types of cells that affect tooth sensitivity.

Patients can regrow their teeth, which have been damaged or lost, which can mean the potential elimination for root canal treatment in the future. You may not need false teeth in your old age; instead, you may be able to grow a new set of healthy teeth.

7. Teledentistry

It took us a pandemic to realize the vast opportunities of teledentistry. Even the American Dental Association has laid out clear guidelines for teledentistry services, making it an accepted dental service.

Post pandemic, we will always have patients who cannot visit the dentist for various reasons, from old age to disabilities. Teledentistry democratizes the industry and makes it accessible to everyone. It can reach anyone living in remote areas with no ready access to a dental clinic.

Dentists can capture images and use video facilities for patient examination. If it is essential, the dentist can ask the patient to visit the office for further tests. They can also share clinic notes with other dentists.

8. Holistic Care

As environmental sustainability becomes a critical goal, more healthcare providers and patients become sensitive to the dental products they use and what they put in their bodies. There is a growing demand for limitation or abstinence of unnatural treatments, the use of chemicals, and natural dental alternatives for treatments. The trend of going green will become increasingly popular in personal and professional healthcare. Whether it is bamboo toothbrushes in personal healthcare or natural, healthier, and sustainable alternative treatments with less-abrasive products in professional healthcare, the trend of going green will become increasingly popular in the coming years.

9. Digital automation technology/ Digital Records

Digital automation technology helps both the healthcare provider and patients. As more dental clinics streamline and organize their processes digitally, they can provide better services to their patients.

Whether it is online appointment booking, patient appointment confirmation, automated follow-up messages and voicemails, online patient portal creation, scheduled social posts and digital marketing efforts to spread awareness, and more, as patients, you stand to benefit by saving more time, effort, and even money.

10. Smart toothbrush

With our homes becoming smart, we cannot leave behind our toothbrushes. The purpose of smart toothbrushes is to help the patients brush correctly the right pressure, angle of brushing, whether all the corners and areas are covered and brushed thoroughly, and the time spent on brushing. The sensors in the smart toothbrush record your brushing habit, and this can be shared with your dentist. There are also smart toothbrushes that make the brushing routine fun for you and your children with fun games and activities.

Smart toothbrushes are a new-age tool to help maintain your oral hygiene.

What’s next?

The innovations will continue to happen. Such as CRISPR, a groundbreaking genome editing method sourced from Mother Nature, and research is currently being done to explore the possibilities of the reduction or elimination of dental cavities, periodontal disease, and oral cancer.

You have many reasons to smile with the current research and innovations in the dental industry. As dental services become more streamlined and efficient, you can expect healthier and more sustainable teeth. But that doesn’t mean you skimp on your daily oral hygiene habits.

Dr. Alex is a trusted dentist who has found a home practicing general dentistry in Palo Alto.