Dentistry is a constantly evolving field from it’s earliest days when it was often the town’s blacksmith that may have removed an abscessed tooth, to today’s AI applications, VR, teledentisrty and smart toothbrushes. Don’t get us wrong advancements are good. We’re pretty sure no one wants to have a tooth pulled without medication and in an unsterile environment, but we’re also pretty sure that not everything needs to be “smart” these days. Perhaps you agree? A brief look at what’s available when it comes to smart oral health care is what’s on our minds today.
Let’s start with a couple of new technologies you might not be aware of and discuss both VR and augmented reality in dentistry. AR is being used in dental schools and dental practices both, but a focus on educational purposes is where it’s being used most frequently. According to research, there are about 8,500 students in dental schools around the world currently utilizing AR to hone their skills. Using simulators, students are performing procedures on AR enabled mannequins that track their movements and provide immediate feedback. It’s literally learning “on the job” but in a safe, practical and hands on manner. It just makes good sense to use available technology to help students learn and grow. From an “in the practice” perspective, some dental specialists are now offering AR apps that will help a patient to envision their new smile after certain corrective procedures are completed.
For some of us who are “of a certain age,” all conversations about technology can start to become a bit confusing. For example, what’s the difference between AR and VR? It might be subtle but essentially VR is used not so much for a “hands on practical” experience but instead, as an opportunity to put one’s self into a different reality altogether. For patients, this might mean a chance to use a VR headset during certain procedures in order to transport themself to virtually anywhere other than the dental office. This could be useful for patients with particularly high anxiety or for young children to help calm them during a visit to the dentist. From the perspective of a dental student (and you may recall we talked about dentistry as a field of study not too long ago) VR allows a student to observe surgical procedures and dental practices “first-hand.” Let’s be honest, peeking over an oral surgeon’s shoulder while operating is next to impossible. VR makes it possible and dentistry was one of the first fields to use VR recorded surgery to help dentists see what happens during a procedure. In fact, it was the Royal London Hospital that first utilized the technology back in 2016.
The “smart” toothbrush is described as “like having a personal coach” in your home (and in your mouth,) one who is responsible for helping you achieve optimal oral health care. Connected to your smart phone, there are toothbrushes that come equipped with sensors in the handle providing you immediate feedback about whether you are applying enough, or too much, pressure and that will even “coach” you on how to brush properly. For children, there are apps that use games to provide feedback. This might all sound good but we have to ask, do we really need a toothbrush to tell us what to do? Your dentist and/or your hygienist are the best at determining together with you what specific oral health care needs you have and what might be best for YOUR teeth. Everyone is different. Some struggle with excessive dental caries, perhaps due to other health issues and some have a lot of plaque or very little plaque. How and when your teeth are brushed is best left to a discussion with your oral health care practitioner and in the case of children, all that instruction from your dental team can be reinforced at home with care and attention from a parent or guardian.
That’s not all in terms of technology. Other options exist including teledentistry, 3-D printing and even, believe it or not, regenerative dentistry! We’ve done some reading and research about some of these other advances in the practice of dentistry and the future offers exciting potential but that’s probably a topic for another blog and another day! If your teeth need some advanced care, reach out to the family-friendly dental team at Brinkley Dental in Brampton where we’re happy to help you “live and in person!” In the meantime, we will leave you as we always do with this friendly reminder: “Don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and brush that smile!”