Latest (and Future) Technology Transforming Dentistry
Clinical content featured by Byte is reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to help ensure clinical accuracy.
We follow strict sourcing guidelines and each page contains a full list of sources for complete transparency.
Table of Contents
- 1994: Teledentistry
- 1961: Virtual Reality
- 1998: Invisalign
- 2012: Smart Toothbrush
- The Future
The quest to improve access to dental health services, quality of care and treatment outcomes has inspired numerous transformative innovations in dentistry over the years. Across all dental specialties, advanced technology helps provide more accurate diagnostics and better patient experiences at an appreciably reduced cost.
While most of these technological upgrades are occurring in dental clinics and labs, some of their key components are available in the palm of consumers’ hands. Integrating those with mobile technology has helped to boost patients’ engagement with their dentists and participation in dental care decisions.
Launched in 1994 by the U.S. Army, teledentistry is one of the most versatile technologies impacting various aspects of patient care. It makes it possible for you to see your dentist without leaving your house, unless necessary.
You only need an internet-enabled mobile device to interact with your dentist remotely using this technology. Some of the key conveniences it offers virtually include:
- Telediagnosis: The system lets you have certain dental exams virtually. In the comfort of your home, you can take images or videos of your mouth or teeth on your laptop or smartphone and share those with your dentist for examination.
- Teleconsultation: This component lets you consult your dentist over any issue via video or chat in real time.
- Telemonitoring: Imagine being able to measure your vitals and symptoms at home every day, while automatically sending the data to your dentist remotely. This feature helps to improve disease management.
In a recent study, nearly 60 percent of dentists said that teledentistry can help cut dental care costs, while about 80 percent said it reduced wait times. The virtual technology caught on fast during the pandemic as it helped to minimize in-person dentist-patient engagements, reducing the risk and rates of COVID-19 transmission.
By enabling dentists to see their patients virtually, teledentistry enhances access to dental care for many individuals and communities. Most patients appreciate the reduced travel time and costs.
1961: Virtual Reality
The history of virtual reality (VR) has multiple technological milestones, some older than 1961. But this is the year the first head-mounted display with a video screen and motion tracking was invented.
VR is much more developed today, with features that place it firmly in the future of dentistry. Dentists are using it to perform complex procedures with fairly impressive results. The technology has been particularly useful in the placement of dental implants.
Wearing VR headsets, an orthodontist can examine their patient’s mouth to create highly accurate virtual plans for implant placement. A Cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) or laser scanner takes 3D images of the implant site and the surrounding dental structures or tissues.
The 3D imaging system is integrated with VR to visually immerse the operator in the scene of surgery. While at it, it conveys accurate data on the size, position, and orientation of the implant.
This allows the operator to simulate the surgical procedure in an augmented VR setting for training and practice. They can later superimpose the virtual plan onto the patient during the actual dental implant surgery.
For patients who have lost their teeth, VR can help restore their natural smile, speech, and chewing abilities with custom-fit and more accurately designed artificial teeth.
Invisalign entered the scene as a game-changer in the field of teeth alignment. It’s a much better alternative to visible brackets designed for the same purpose.
As with any other clear aligner therapy (CAT) system, Invisalign treatment plans weren’t initially as predictable and accurate as they are today. Many dentists couldn’t always access and compare as many previous patient records as needed to create well-fitting aligners that work for each patient.
Even with access to vast amounts of patient data sets, it’s virtually impossible to manually review all and connect all the dots.
Artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning algorithms changed this for Invisalign and orthodontics in general. The company behind Invisalign had been collecting and safely storing large amounts of malocclusion (crooked teeth) patient data, including pre-treatment and post-treatment records.
They deployed AI software that used machine learning algorithms to quickly analyze tons of this data and propose appropriate treatment plans. Today, this technology enables orthodontists to more accurately predict how each set of aligners they design for a patient will work.
Invisalign software can forecast the position and movement of each tooth at any point during therapy. For many patients with crooked teeth, this technology can provide custom-fit aligners with a better natural smile.
2012: Smart Toothbrush (Beam Technologies)
How would you rate your toothbrush technique? A smart toothbrush can track and tell how well you or your kids are doing to avoid gum disease and cavity every day.
Operating at the intersection of AI, the internet of things (IoT) and teledentistry, the system can track and report on the user’s daily brushing habits. It’s a fun way for individuals or families to enforce or at least encourage good personal oral hygiene.
Here’s a look at how a smart toothbrush works using futuristic technology:
- IoT: The brush has built-in smart sensors that “read” and send data on your brushing habits/patterns, including duration.
- AI: Intelligent software analyzes the captured data. It tells you whether you’re brushing long enough and reaching all areas to protect your gum and teeth.
- Teledentistry: Smart toothbrush systems like the Kolibree allow for dental practice software integration. In this way, patients can share their brushing data with their dentist for remote monitoring and consulting.
- Smartphone: The IoT sensors on the brush send brushing data to your smartphone, wirelessly, such as by Bluetooth.
- Apps: Your smart toothbrush maker will provide a mobile app to download and install on your smartphone. The software shows and grades your daily brushing habits, charting your progress from day one.
The Future of Dental Technology
Many people have historically faced numerous obstacles to better care and optimal oral hygiene. They either don’t have insurance or cannot afford the cost of dental procedures that they need.
Dentists are increasingly leveraging modern innovations to effectively address many of the long-standing consumer pain points. With futuristic solutions for dentistry, diagnostic efficiency and treatment outcomes can only keep getting better and better.
The Teledentistry, Impact, Current Trends, and Application in Dentistry: A Global Study. (October 2021). BioMed Research International.
The Application of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery. (November 2019). BMC Oral Health.
The Very Real History of Virtual Reality (+A Look Ahead). (September 2019). G2.com.
The Role of AI And Machine Learning in Contemporary Orthodontics. (November 2020). Asian Pacific Orthodontic Society.
'Smart' Toothbrush Grades Your Brushing Habits. February 2014). CNN.
510(k) SUMMARY (Beam Technologies). (April 2021). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.