At every step we experience the need to use newer and newer software products and hardware devices, and we don't even notice it anymore. Our cars got smarter and are able to park by themselves or to take decisions in potentially dangerous situations on the road. Our vacuum cleaners can be programmed to clean when we are not at home. We can control the heating at home or the office and the irrigation system in the garden even when we are abroad. There are many more examples for our life gradually becoming easier thanks to computers.
Naturally, digitisation also entered all fields of medicine.
Most people associate dental care with pain, fillings, crowns, bridges, prostheses, teeth extraction. The general notion about the manipulations, the materials, the equipment, the instruments and the interior of the dental office is still stuck in the past. But the enormous progress in computer technologies inevitably permeated into this small, but very important part of medicine.
Let's compare a regular check-up at the dentist's before and now. Before, the main approach was visual survey and, if needed, an X-ray or electro-odonto diagnosis. Today the dentist has at his disposal: 3D X-ray, caries detector, 3D electronic periodontal probing, thermo camera, softwares for smile design change, ultrasound registration of the lower jaw movements etc.
The information, obtained in a noninvasive way, is enough not only to make a diagnosis, but also to choose a treatment method.
There are innovations as well in the most commonly performed manipulation, the filling. The awful sound of the drilling machine and the sense of dental tissues being filed can be avoided with the use of high-intensity lasers. Besides reduction of inpleasant feelings, as work with lasers is contactless, they allow the targeted removal of the dentine that has been affected by the caries, sparing the healthy tissue.
Prosthetics has benefited to the largest extent by new technologies. Prostheses, crowns, bridges are made exclusively using a digital print (photos of the prosthetic field) made with specialised intraoral scanner. The information is then send to the laboratory via the Internet. There, on a 3D printer, are printed models that are virtually modelled. The ready model is sent to a digital cutter or 3D printer, depending on the materials that will be used (CAD/CAM technology), quickly and extremely precisely. At the dental laboratory already more than 50-60% of manipulations are digitised.
In implantology are used highly specialised computer tomographs for survey of bone volume and structure. The information is processed by specialised softwares that produce virtual navigation templates. With the help of cutting equipment or 3D printers they materialise and are used for very precise and predictable implanting of screw dental implants.
All of this doesn't mean that human factor will be eliminated. Technologies and machines will never replace completely the specialists. They, however, improve and make the work process faster. One can be able to work with such technologies only if he also uses the analogue conventional methods.
The good news is that two years ago we introduced Digital Dental Medicine in the curriculum of the Faculty for Dental Medicine at the Varna Medical University. Texts books are already published and PhDs have been written in the field.
Dental medicine of the future will be very interesting and different. There are yet things to improve in fields like biological implantation, use of stem cells, robotised teeth preparation and many others.
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