healthcaretechoutlook

Dentistry and Emerging Trends in Technology 2018

By Louis Siegelman, Assistant Director of Dentist Anesthesiology, NYU Langone Health, Brooklyn

Louis Siegelman, Assistant Director of Dentist Anesthesiology, NYU Langone Health, Brooklyn

Dentistry is poised to benefit from trends in CAD/CAM, computer aided design and computer aided manufacture, and biotechnology. Dentistry is a field that intersects health care and esthetic services with advanced technology in materials science, computers, pharma, and genetics. It’s a rapidly changing sector, with small fee for service offices, being replaced by larger corporate entities backed by venture capital, and enlightened business management.

CAD/CAM allows for a streamlined digital workflow for a provider/doctor allowing for a lower cost basis for the delivery of high value esthetic and implant services. The patients’ treatment plan can be planned digitally. 3D milling and printing allows for manufacture of guides for placing implants minimally invasively. Prosthesis can be manufactured at reduced cost. CAD/CAM provides for more precision and higher quality in this desirable slice of the dental market. This wave will play out over the next decade, and change the profession of dentistry. The trend coincides with demographic changes in an aging population that has disposable income and views dentistry favorably. What’s better than a great smile!

"Dental products that can be sold retail to the general public in the form of toothpaste, pain relievers, TM joint devices, brushers, flossing aids will thrive as the public shows enthusiasm for a fresh healthy mouth"

School debt and the large investment for a physical plant and equipment have made a job in corporate dentistry attractive for millennial dental school graduates. An increasing number of recent dental graduates seek their first jobs in corporate owned dental facilities.

Information systems will enable wider networks of delivery to coordinate services whether private corporations or government programs. Information technology is allowing for orthodontics ie straight teeth to be more widely available. Teeth can be optically scanned, and tooth movements digitally prescribed. The actual tooth movement is effectuated by clear aligners, which are nearly invisible in many cases. 

Advances in detection of dental caries, and periodontal disease will depend on artificial intelligence, and imaging. Artificial intelligence could detect cavities more accurately, and earlier, so that sealers or preventive measures could intervene before more invasive procedures are required.  Services could then be applied by support personnel under some dental supervision, but not directly by dentists. Lasers are available for hard tissue and soft tissue procedures. They will continue to make inroads, but they are not about to replace the dental drill over the next decade. Overall, the public responds to procedures that are termed “minimally invasive,” or require less anesthesia. There is a general expansion in the awareness of dentists to provide better pain and anxiety relief. 

Refined foods and beverages are less satiating, more acidic, and contain more concentrated sugars than whole foods. They are more destructive to natural teeth. Even if advances in preventing cavities, and curing gum disease continue to improve, the wear to the human dentition will happen as we age. The need and demand for dental services will be present for the foreseeable future.

Dental products that can be sold retail to the general public in the form of toothpaste, pain relievers, TM joint devices, brushers, flossing aids will thrive as the public shows enthusiasm for a fresh healthy mouth. People want that very much. Better consumer products that clean and prevent disease will be successful. Such products need to feel good, make teeth whiter, and taste better to encourage people to use them.

Salivary diagnostics are emerging as a huge potential for dentistry. Today, a patient can spit in a test tube at their dentist and receive a detailed genetic report on their own genetic profile, and the genetic identification of the bacteria living in their mouth. These bacteria have been implicated in dementia, cancer and cardiovascular disease. This hard data drives home the importance of good oral health to our general well being, for our patients.  Salivary diagnostics will expand in use due to low cost, and availability for a broad range of genetic issues, bacterial and viral detection, and endocrine diseases. This technology is in its infancy.

The dental profession has prided itself, and achieved, quality service for the public. In the future the challenge for the profession is to maintain quality standards, push for oral health publicly, contain costs, and provide services to a broader segment of the population. The corporatization of the dental profession may increase the drive for profits, and profoundly change what has previously been a cottage industry. Dentistry is set to thrive because it benefits from improving demographics, and emerging technological trends.

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