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    What the future holds for digital dentistry

    These innovations may not be available just yet, but the future holds endless possibilities.

    The science of healthcare has  come a long way in a very short amount of time.

    The first inferior alveolar nerve block was given in 1885 by William Stewart Halstead. Before that, patients suffered through unbelievable pain (as an historical aside, the anesthetic was cocaine solution). At around that same time, surgeons treated patients with their bare hands in street clothes contaminated with the biological material of past procedures. The idea of bacteria (“tiny invisible bugs that cause infection”) was laughed at by the mainstream of practitioners.

    All of those instances were happening less than 150 years ago. Depending on what you’re measuring, that can be a long time … or a relatively short one. I like to think of things (surprise!) in “technology years,” which can make even “dog years” seem like the blink of an eye. When I think of the changes I’ve seen in our profession over my career, it makes my head spin.

    I love to tell the story of one of my instructors in dental school. He was a very nice man but had spent his entire career teaching during a period in which there wasn’t tremendous innovation in the profession. He actually once told me, “You’ll get such a good education here that you could never learn another thing and you’ll get along just fine.” A few years later, computers moved into healthcare and the world of change exploded.

    Since this issue of DPR is focusing on the future of our profession, I’m going to pull my nerd hat on even tighter than usual and present some ideas for things that may not exist just yet but could certainly be in the not-too-distant future.

    Related reading: The future of digital dentistry

    Virtual reality 

    There are already scanning devices available for non-dental situations where a 3D object can be scanned and then imported into a computer. In dentistry, we’re currently doing very similar things with 3D acquisition units such as iTero Elements, 3Shape TRIOS, Carestream’s CS 3600 and others. How cool will it be to scan the entire mouth, including soft tissue, and then put on 3D rendering goggles and see the mouth from every angle while you’re inside the mouth! Think that would help you as well as impress your patients? Yup, I do too.

    The good news is that since many of us are utilizing CBCT and digital scanners in our practices already, it won’t be too incredibly difficult to enable us to actually stroll around inside of these images and see them up close and personal. When I think of how much information I could gain from this, I can’t keep the smile from my face.

    Trending article: Why artificial intelligence is the future of dentistry

    Precise vision

    I’m thrilled that statistics now show that 80 percent of us are wearing some type of magnification during treatment. That percentage has steadily increased since the early 2000s. We’ve also seen tremendous growth in the realm of higher magnification. Depending on what I’m doing, I frequently work at 5x to 5.5x on a daily basis.

    What I’m really excited about is the ability to bring higher magnification in for when we need it — and from where we need it. Camera hardware is continually shrinking and wireless connections are now incredibly reliable. Imagine a set of surgical telescopes (by the way, we wear surgical telescopes, not loupes; the word “loupes” just denigrates the technology of our scopes) that have a built-in, high-resolution screen. You can look through your scopes or, when the situation demands it, look into the screen and see a high-res image from a camera on your mirror or from a camera mounted on a mirror handle. You would be able to see from wherever the camera is oriented. That means being able to view things that are highly magnified from perspectives we’ve never had before.

    The means to do this already exists in a few different forms. Now, we just need to have someone step up to the plate and combine the pieces into a usable dental platform. I’m challenging surgical telescope and camera companies to make this happen. It’s not a difficult solution and dentists will love it!


    Continue to page two for more...

    Dr. John Flucke
    Dr. John Flucke is in private practice in Lee’s Summit, Mo. He also serves as technology editor for Dental Products Report magazine and ...


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