As technology is already seen to be changing in many sectors of society, the development of new devices and systems to benefit the whole healthcare system, including dentistry, is definitely inevitable. New systems to benefit patients and dentists will overall lead to better patient-centred care. Some of these new technologies will be explored here and how this will impact the field in general.
One form of technology, which has been introduced within society for a while but only just begun to be utilized in dentistry, is Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Augmented Reality uses visual elements to create an enhanced version of the real physical world by analysing the world in front of the viewer and adding filters. This has excellent uses in dentistry such as dental students using AR to practice procedures. Rather than using mannequin heads which cannot be used at all times, dental students can improve and develop their manual dexterity skills anywhere. In the dental practice, dental professionals can create accurate representations of patients’ teeth on a model and present them what their teeth should look like after treatment and procedures. This automatically creates a greater satisfaction and comfort for the patient about how their teeth can be improved, which can give them confidence and be less fearful of the whole process. It gives the patient a greater awareness of their problem and makes them more likely to undergo treatment without being skeptical. Furthermore, multiple AR models can be created with different aesthetics to present to a patient clearly what treatment they would like. This would overall lead to greater patient satisfaction. Similarly, these benefits can be seen for both the dentist and patient with Virtual Reality. VR involves a person wearing a headset to immerse themselves in a completely different environment to what they are actually in. This contrasts AR where a person can visualise something through a screen but would not experience the same immersion. For this reason, VR can be used by training dentists and dental students to observe a real procedure and learn how to carry it out from an experienced dentist’s perspective. Learning from a third person perspective would not be as engaging. Using VR would mean students would learn much more effectively and even practice these skills with greater understanding. Similarly, for patients needing specialist care or patients who are fearful of procedures, VR headsets can be used to make the environment more comforting for them, which also makes the procedure easier for the dentist to complete.
Furthermore, the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been utilized to analyse data throughout many aspects of society and has excellent opportunities in the field of dentistry too. AI algorithms have already been set up to analyse huge amounts of data to find the best treatment options for patients. Health data, research and treatment techniques can be analysed as a whole to offer diagnostic recommendations for individual patients. Further collection of data and analysis, such as with genomic data would offer a deeper understanding into each person, providing a better personal care. With AI having access to such information, better treatment options are available. However, one drawback of this is that the handling of such huge amounts of data has to be done with care as practices may be susceptible to data hacks and leaks which would ruin patient privacy and confidentiality. However, with such large-scale data processing, much better security systems would be in place too. Another implementation of AI on a larger scale could involve the use of smart toothbrushes. With our homes being filled with smart devices, the use of a smart toothbrush would improve our lives further. Used in conjunction with an app, a variety of sensors in the toothbrush analyse the method with which the user is brushing their teeth and while scanning the area of the mouth, the user can be notified on how to improve their brushing. With real time feedback on whether too much pressure is applied, which areas have been missed and which technique should be used, over time the user’s oral health would improve greatly. At the expense of these benefits, there are some negatives which include the extent to which data is being collected while these systems are used, which would put off some consumers.
In addition to all of these, multiple technological advancements, including in robotics, allow for a better treatment for the patient and follows the philosophy of patient-centred care to a greater extent. For example, intra-oral cameras have begun to be utilized by dentists to view harder-to-see areas of the mouth in greater detail. When complex procedures occur, the site has to be inspected clearly and intra-oral cameras ensure no abnormalities are missed. Similarly, as such a huge number of patients receive dentures every year all over the world, intra-oral scanners play an amazing role in the production of dentures. Normally, when an impression of the teeth has to be made, a thick liquid material, usually alginate or polyvinyl siloxane, is set in the patient’s mouth before a set of dentures can be made. This has to be sent to a lab to make a set of dentures for a patient. However, using intra-oral scanners means that a quick digital impression of the teeth can be formed with just one tool and this digital scan of the patient’s mouth can be sent to the lab. The process of creating an impression is much faster and is much easier for the patient. The resulting denture will be more accurate too which results in better patient satisfaction too. Furthermore, as dental practices regularly send impressions to dental labs, some dental implants could be made by the dentist itself with the help of 3D printing. Using the same digital scanning technique but instead creating an implant quickly for a patient makes the whole process faster. Rather than running a whole dental laboratory, dentists can 3D print certain implants and money can be saved, which results in patient expenditure falling too and costs reduced. The greater accuracy too leads to better results. Furthermore, the actual procedure of setting implants within the patient can be assisted with technology too, such as with the use of the YOMI robotic system which increases accuracy of procedures whilst ensuring safety.
The technologies utilized in dentistry allow for an excellent improvement to patient care as procedures become more accurate and patients are satisfied with their results which mirrors the dentists aim of providing patient centred care.
Arya Bhatt, Youth Medical Journal 2022
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