What Could the Future Hold?
Dentistry has come a long way since cadaver teeth were implanted into empty tooth sockets. While dentistry has been around for thousands of years, the last few decades have seen dramatic advancements in the techniques and materials used to restore, enhance, and replace teeth. And dentistry shows no signs of stopping; annual expenditures on dentistry are continuing to rise. As a society, we’re very interested in having perfect teeth.
With so much interest in dentistry, scientists and dentists are working to improve dentistry even further. What could the future hold? Here are a few of the innovations now coming down the pipeline.
No, it’s not science fiction. Actually, lasers are already involved in many aspects of dental care. They’re used to speed teeth whitening procedures, to improve the bonding of composite resin to teeth, to reduce tooth sensitivity, and even to treat tumors of the mouth. As technology advances, it’s likely that lasers will play an increasingly important role in dentistry. For instance, they could be used to kill the bacteria in a cavity so that it doesn’t grow any more; if the cavity is small enough, then it might not have to be drilled and filled once it’s sterilized. Increasing use of lasers could allow the uses of new materials, and allow precision application that minimizes the impact on surrounding teeth and tissues.
Oral surgery can be a complicated process. Often, devices such as implants have to be placed very precisely in order to provide a functional and aesthetically-pleasing outcome. But working in a small space like the mouth can be very challenging. Luckily, dentists have help. Computer simulation is now used to precisely determine where and how implants should be placed. Using a 3-D simulation of the mouth, the surgeons can model the surgery, varying factors such as the length of the implants and the angle of drilling to get the best outcome — before the patient even arrives.
And it’s not just for surgery. Computer models of the mouth are routinely created and then used to make dental devices such as crowns. Invisalign relies on 3-D modeling to create the plastic aligners that straighten the teeth. As computers become more powerful and computer simulations of the mouth become more sophisticated, dentistry will get better and faster at making exactly the size and shape of dental device that you need. One day, your dentist may even use a 3-D printer to create your crown, dentures, or other dental device right there in the office — no more waiting two weeks with an acrylic temporary in place.
Materials science is advancing rapidly. The development of nanomaterials and other advanced materials is revolutionizing many industries, and there’s no reason to expect dentistry to be an exception. Early fillings were done with amalgam, but this presents several problems; extra healthy tooth structure must be removed to get the metal filling to stay in, and metal expands and contracts, further damaging tooth structure. The development of composite resin, bonded to teeth with the help of special lights, has allowed for much smaller and more natural-looking fillings, as well as dental bonding to solve other problems like chipping and gaps. What tooth-like materials might be developed in the next decade?
The Future is Bright!
With dentistry improving every day, there’s every reason to be excited about the future of dentistry. And the present is pretty exciting too. Nearly every potential problem with your teeth, from coffee stains to poor alignment to missing teeth, has a solution in modern dentistry. You have tons of options to help you achieve that perfect smile. So there’s no need to wait. If you want to improve your smile, you can get started today!