With the prevailing situation created by the Covid-19 pandemic – and the resultant dental industry market recession – there is one thing on every dentist’s mind: “What does the future hold for us?” While we can’t control the future, we can be sure of one thing — 10 years down the road, we can expect remarkable changes in the dental industry that will completely revolutionize dental healthcare facilities worldwide.
3D Printing Technology
As we move forward, dental treatment is expected to become less time-consuming. Compared with conventional laboratory-made restorations, dental restorations fabricated using the CAD-CAM technology are not only dimensionally accurate and aesthetically more pleasant, but they also possess lesser structural flaws, making them much more durable.
Although more and more dentists are investing in 3D printing technology, the next decade will witness an unprecedented reliance of dentists on the fabrication of dental restorations with the computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD-CAM) technology. The possibilities are endless. It’s not just dental restorations; the day is not far when dentists will be able to 3D print teeth as well.
The medical industry has already started to benefit from artificial intelligence in various ways. Unfortunately, the dental industry has been slow in adopting this promising technology. But this is going to change in the near future. From caries diagnosis to early detection of malignant lesions, patient record management, and diagnostic imaging, computers and software will be assisting dentists in making more accurate and effective clinical decisions in the years to come.
In a world where every industry is increasingly relying upon digital systems and equipment, why should the dental market be left behind? Even today, many dentists use physical impressions for the fabrication of crowns and veneers – even in implant dentistry. Digital impressions are much more accurate and dimensionally stable. More importantly, they can be seamlessly integrated with CAD-CAM systems for the chairside fabrication of dental restorations.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the worldwide number of individuals older than 60 is expected to rise from 900 million in 2015 to 2 billion by 2050. Consequently, there has been a rise in the global incidence of root caries.
The current surgical-restorative model for managing dental caries – especially root caries – has become globally unfeasible. Hence, over the years, the trend is expected to shift from “surgical” restoration to a “minimally invasive, medical model” using novel remineralizing agents such as sodium fluoride and amorphous calcium phosphate.
Among these agents, silver diamine fluoride (SDF) has gained considerable attention due to its ability to effectively arrest and prevent root caries. It is expected that more and more dentists will adopt this novel remineralization agent, which will prove especially beneficial in caries management in rural, under-developed areas – or for high-risk patients.
Not only this, a team of researchers is working on a novel remineralization method – electrically accelerated and enhanced remineralization (EAER). This method, which is expected to be clinically available in the coming years, will allow for the remineralization of enamel and dentine tissue, restoring mild to moderate caries without the need for restorative treatment.
Imagine practicing your clinical skills – or teaching your students without the need for live patients. This is going to be a reality soon, thanks to augmented reality. In the coming years, dental students will learn and practice various clinical procedures anytime, anywhere.
Not only this, dentists will be able to use augmented reality for educating and counseling their patients. From oral hygiene instructions to showing tooth defects in realtime and suggesting appropriate treatment modalities, the opportunities are endless for augmented reality in dentistry.
The Covid-19 pandemic has completely revolutionized the dental industry. Dentists now only ask patients to come to their offices only when physical treatment is needed. When it comes to regular oral hygiene checkups – or other services that do not require the physical presence of the patients, dentists now offer teledentistry services. While the Covid-19 will hopefully be a thing of the past soon, teledentistry is here to stay.
According to the American TeleDentistry Association, around 20% of Americans live in rural areas that lack dental care access. Teledentistry can solve this problem in the coming years. How convenient would it be for the patients? No matter where you live, you don’t need to take a break from work or pick your kids from school for a dentist’s appointment. Simply log in from your smartphones and let your dentist examine your oral health or your Invisalign treatment progress. Similarly, in case of an emergency, teledentistry will allow patients to seek immediate advice from the dentist while waiting for a physical appointment.
The list of changes we can expect in the years to come is endless. But we can be sure about one thing – the future is promising for the dental industry and dental patients. We can expect the introduction of novel and groundbreaking technologies that will immensely benefit both the dentists and the patients over the years. So, let’s hope for the best and be a part of that change.
Photo: Feodora Chiosea, Getty Images