Dentistry is progressing at fast pace and practices need to adapt, says Dr Simon Chard, speaking ahead of his presentation to delegates at the forthcoming Align Technology UKI Forum Live, taking place in Manchester on September 8-9.
He says digital technologies such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will change the shape of dentistry in the next five to 10 years. Perhaps more so than the combined developments of the past 30 years.
He predicts: ‘I’ve been chairside milling my restorations for many, many years, but I believe 3D printing will eventually surpass milling. The beautiful thing about 3D printing is you get the accuracy, you get the speed, but it’s a much less significant capital investment than with milling. I think the adoption from dentists will be much faster as a result.
‘I think AI and having an AI assistant to support you in your clinic with note taking and radiographic diagnostics will be widespread. Advances in smile design and the capabilities of software such as Exocad CAD/CAM in smile visualisation is going to be here much faster than we think. Workflows will also be really, really streamlined.’
He adds: ‘There are also some really exciting advances in implant therapy – haptic-enhanced robotics to help improve the accuracy of implant placements.’
‘A mindset of adaptability’
To future-proof themselves, he warns dentists they must adapt.
‘A mindset of adaptability will be important for dentists in preparing for the changes to come. To paraphrase a saying: “it’s not the fastest or the strongest who succeeds, it’s the one that’s most adaptable to change.”
‘It’s about having an open mindset and not being restricted by dogmas of previous years. But that doesn’t mean jumping into every different technology that presents as soon as it arrives, because obviously there’s lots of companies looking to benefit financially from the technological advancement and not all of these technologies will succeed.
‘However, having that open mindset, doing your research and adopting it pragmatically will reap multiple rewards for all parties involved in dentistry.”
Simon Chard sums up what he believes are the key fundamentals of dentistry today with his A.B.C.D approach: AI and airways, biological, cosmetic and digital. These will form the pillars of his Align Technology UKI Live Forum presentation, as he explains:
‘It is really important for all of us as dentists, both for the protection of our own businesses, and for the better treatment of our patients, to stay abreast of the latest advances in technology. With the advent of AI, those changes will happen even faster. Directly through things such as radiographic diagnostic assistance, to software that can design restorations. And indirectly in the way that the hardware will advance much, much faster with this increased processing power.’
He adds that airways are another important consideration in dentistry. According to some estimations, one billion people globally may have undiagnosed sleep apnoea (The Lancet, 2019) and dentists are in a very unique position to be able to diagnose those patients. After the correct diagnosis, there are also relatively simple treatment modalities that dentists can prescribe, or we can refer them to the correct sleep physician.
The mouth ‘as a part of a living human being’
Simon Chard also stresses the biological link between the mouth and the whole body. This includes the mouth leading to issues in the body and issues of the body being vitally important to things going on in the mouth.
‘For this, we look at the microbiome and the linkage of systemic illnesses with periodontal disease and implant failure, and other issues of oral health. So it’s really not looking at the mouth as a silo but looking at it as a part of a living human being,’ he stresses.
He also points to the advent of technology and improved techniques, that places even more responsibility on dentists to be biologically responsible and ethical with regards to cosmetic dentistry provision: ‘How can we practice cosmetic dentistry in the most minimally invasive way possible? This includes things such as no prep porcelain veneers following Invisalign treatment and a more conservative approach to full arch implant work.’
Last, but by no means least he underlines the importance of embracing digital technology.
‘As we’ve seen in many industries, if you don’t adapt, then your business can very quickly die… AI, robotics or technology to streamline workflows, make it a really exciting time to be a dentist. The next five years will show the biggest changes in dentistry that we’ve seen in the past 30.’
To find out more about Align Technology’s UKI Forum Live and to register to hear Dr Simon Chard, visit www.invisalign.co.uk/gp/professional-development/educational-events.
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