The digital revolution that is transforming every aspect of our world is also impacting dentistry and medicine in a multitude of ways, from electronic record-keeping and data analysis to new diagnostic tools, novel prevention methods—and revolutionary treatment options. “The future is wide open,” says Emmott.
Experts say that technological innovation will ultimately improve and broaden access to dental care, allowing for same-day care that translates to fewer office visits—making a healthy smile more affordable.
As more high-quality digital information becomes available to researchers, the potential for more precise diagnosis and treatment only continues to grow. Data including your age, medical and dental health history, as well as your genome, will, for example, allow dental professionals to pinpoint your susceptibility to various types of oral disease. In the near future, doctors and dentists will increasingly tailor treatment to your personal genetics, making choices reflecting what has proven most effective for your genome and your particular physiology. Or they may even decide how to best treat you based on the specific bacteria that’s causing your problem.
A significant part of this revolution is the ongoing development of diagnostic tools that are able to analyze our physical condition with ever-greater precision. That includes advanced digital imaging, like a currently available system called the Canary. During a three-second scan, an electric toothbrush-sized device emits pulsing red laser light; it may detect cracks and caries that are too small to show up on an x-ray. Another device, the “S-Ray,” ultrasonically maps both teeth and gums in 3-D to find cavities and disease. Upon approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, experts think s-rays may be cheaper than x-rays. What’s more, neither of the two systems expose patients to harmful radiation.