Dentistry has come a long way. Just as technological innovation has revolutionized virtually every other medical industry, so too is tech transforming the oral health landscape. Here are five major innovations that are changing dentistry as we know it.
For years, dentists have had to rely exclusively on X-rays to take a read of a patient’s mouth. While these diagnostic tools are hugely valuable in their own right, they’re certainly not foolproof—and they may have trouble spotting certain oral issues. Enter a wide array of advanced digital imaging tools, which are upping the ante when it comes to developing a full assessment of a patient’s oral health.
Computer technologies now offer enhancements to X-rays in a number of ways, from digital radiography tools that create images with less radiation exposure, to intraoral cameras that allow patients to view their own dental imagery on a screen in real time, to digital scans that can detect tiny cracks, changes in oral tissue, and other issues that might be too small to be detected by a traditional X-ray.
Together, these advanced imaging tools allow for more precise assessments of a patient’s dental health, which can result in earlier diagnosis—and more effective treatment—of a wide range of oral health issues.
The word “lasers” may sound like it belongs more in Star Wars than in a dentist’s office, but in fact lasers are becoming a massively useful tool for the diagnosis and treatment of oral health issues. For example, many dentists now employ lasers for gum surgery, and if technological trends continue lasers may replace drills in the removal of cavities.
We don’t have to explain how eliminating drills from dentistry would be a major game-changer for patients! What’s more, the use of lasers in the treatment of dental issues minimizes the invasiveness of these procedures and requires the removal of less tooth and oral tissue.
Our phones, refrigerators, and lighting systems are getting “smarter”, so it was only a matter of time before our toothbrushes smartened up.
Smart toothbrushes can perform a wide array of functions, such as offering feedback on your tooth brushing technique to entertaining you for the full two minutes that you’re supposed to brush your teeth, sensing plaque buildup, and even evaluating the quality of your breath and saliva. These tools can help people improve their oral hygiene and may facilitate earlier detection of oral health issues.
3D printing is being put to use in a variety of medical fields, and dentistry is no exception. Dental applications of 3D printing include printing new crowns, caps, bridges, and even teeth—all of which promise an exceptionally customized fit thanks to 3D scans of a patient’s mouth. Some researchers have even successfully 3D printed new jawbones for patients requiring major dental reconstruction.
All told, the emergence of 3D scanning and printing promises dental patients faster, more affordable care and better-fitting dental appliances. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: As 3D printing improves, there’s a chance researchers may figure out how to create 3D printed teeth that are entirely immune to infection.
From rural communities to nursing homes, access to dental care is a major issue for many people around the country and the world—but tele-dentistry is starting to change that.
Technological advancements are beginning to allow for dental screenings to be completed at home (with the assistance of a smartphone) or at the nearest community health clinic. These scans can then be uploaded to a dental professional who can provide an analysis remotely. This allows for earlier detection and diagnosis of oral health issues, which can save patients time, money, and headaches down the line.
From dental lasers to 3D printed teeth, the world of dentistry is getting increasingly sci-fi-esque. In the years to come, it’s likely these seemingly futuristic developments will become much more commonplace.