Many things in dentistry that just don’t change. For instance, you can bet that dentists a century ago complained about how difficult it was to staff their practices. Yet, some things do change. Technological advances over the last century have been incredible. Technological advances in the last decade have been sensational.
Just a decade ago, the idea of using artificial intelligence in dentistry seemed like space age stuff. Yet, today, virtual reality, the intelligent toothbrush, laser technology, and 3D printing have become a natural part of dentistry. Indeed, many people are starting to look ahead to a world where artificial intelligence will be used in diagnostics and treatment.
Take a dentist from 1921 to our times and all this would sound like madness. But it’s happening.
Technological advances will not stop simply because we cannot adapt to them. We need to get used to technological innovation and embrace.
Naturally, with health on the line, health care professionals are cautious. All good health care professionals want to provide a standard of care that meets or exceeds the expectations of their patients. All good health care professionals want to see a large body of research and a lot of clinical studies, before they take the plunge and adapt new treatments, or technologies. This caution has not been problematic in the past because technological advances occurred at a much slower rate than they occur now.
For instance, composite resin was introduced in the 1950s by Dr. Michael Buonocore,yet it took till the 1980s before they became standard in anterior restorations. It took that long to develop the curing lights and resin materials to an acceptable standard. Or take posterior composites. Introduced in the 1990s, they were still not the default standard for restorations when the 2000s began.
Yet, as we said, the pace of change today is much faster. Dental practices have to keep up with technological advances. This does not mean abandoning scientific standards in pursuit of the next big thing. Even the most tech-loving patient expects their periodontist to adhere to the highest scientific standards.
Rather, dentists can learn from industries that have already implemented various technologies. There are areas where dentistry is lagging even though other industries have proved that various technologies work. We have to do better in learning.
For example, we have seen just how revolutionary 3D printing has been in many industries. We need to quicken our pace in adapting 3D technology for dentistry. 3D printing could have a transformative effect on dentistry.
Dr. Michael Tornow suggests that dentistry start thinking in terms of return on investment, in order to assess if a technology should be used within the discipline. As important as it is to be conservative in our approach, a certain level of caution can be bad for patients if it means we delay implementing technologies that could dramatically improve health outcomes.
Many technologies can also reduce costs, making the best dental care available to more people.
We do not need to start investing in new technologies, but we do need to start learning about them and studying their impact on other industries. We owe it to our patients.