Will Robo Dentists and Virtual Worlds Create Healthier, More Affordable Smiles in 2019?

Robots, virtual reality and digital imaging may soon make visits to the dentist more enjoyable – and less expensive. Technological advances in modern dentistry means more than just robot dentists cleaning our teeth. It equates to more efficiency and lower costs — something all Americans can benefit from. So, don’t run from artificial intelligence and new scientific developments, embrace them. Here’s some of the top dental trends we anticipate in 2019 and how to steer through the changes:

Humans Taking a Page from the Great White’s Playbook

Healthy human teeth can self-repair minor damage but aren’t capable of healing larger cavities. But recent experiments in boosting teeth’s natural healing ability, using tiny collagen sponges soaked in medicines known to stimulate cell-to-cell communication, have been very successful. We may soon be able to regrow our own teeth, just like sharks can.

Robo Dentists at a Fraction of the Cost

From 3D printed replacement jaws to China’s efforts to address the lack of dentists in the country by using robotic dentists that can perform sophisticated procedures such as dental implants, dental care continues to lead the way in healthcare technology. A recent study found that Americans would be happy to get their teeth cleaned or whitened by a robot, if they got a 50% discount on the cost of care.

Virtual Worlds Battling Dental Decay

Virtual reality will increasingly replace the use of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), thanks to its ability to reduce mild discomfort and anxiety simply by distracting patients. Gamers shouldn’t get too excited though. People won’t be able to explore 3D worlds and battle dental decay orcs while getting their teeth cleaned for safety reasons — you still need to sit still.

Artificial Intelligence Diagnosis

AI does a superhuman job of spotting patterns, which includes the ability to identify oral health issues. This could include identifying a tiny spot that will, untreated, likely turn into a cavity, spotting the first signs of gum disease, or identifying oral cancer in its earliest stages. Dentists won’t be replaced by AI but will use the technology to diagnose and treat developing problems. Early treatment provably helps prevent dental disease and the health conditions associated with dental infections and inflammation.

Dentures Making A Better Impression

As anyone who has ever struggled to breathe (and not gag) while getting a dental impression made knows, it’s no fun to have a huge wad of goop in your mouth. Intraoral scanning replaces the dreaded process with a small, handheld device that creates 2D and 3D images of teeth. Teamed with 3D printing, producing dental devices and dental restorations like bridges and dentures will be far less stressful, quicker and — eventually — less expensive.

Tooth Powder Making a Comeback

Consumers want stronger, healthier, brighter smiles without a lot of artificial ingredients. Look for items such as charcoal toothpastes and mouthwashes on the shelves, dental care products that focus on restoring a healthy oral environment, and the return of toothpaste’s original format — tooth powder. Powders can contain clay and other substances that may help support a healthy smile, naturally. Over-scrubbing can create dental issues, though, so take it easy (especially if you have crowns or veneers) and consider checking with a hygienist or dentist before using abrasive products.

More Dentists Offering Memberships

With such memberships, patients pay their dentist a monthly or yearly membership fee in exchange for discounted dental care. But consumers should weigh the discounts against being able to use the plan only at a specific dentist’s office, as opposed to seeing any dentist or dental specialist that participates in a standard dental savings plan. Consumers should also compare savings on dental procedures such as root canals, crowns, dentures, dental implants, bridges and other treatments. Many dentists’ in-house plans have a maximum discount of 20% on these treatments, while other dental savings plans can offer savings as high as 40% on these same procedures.

More Americans Supplementing Insurance Coverage

People with high deductible healthcare plans — as well as people on basic Medicare, which doesn’t cover dental — will increasingly turn to healthcare discount programs to help lower the cost of health care. Consumers are also increasingly discovering that dental savings plans typically include savings on vision and hearing care, chiropractic treatment, prescription medicines and other essential healthcare services and products — not just your dental needs.

These new technologies and various ways to pay for your care are helping make dental care more accessible and affordable for Americans. So, whether you visit a robo dentist on your next cleaning or not, one thing is for sure – the dental industry is embracing technology and consumers are prone to benefit from it.

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