Dental robotics: A disruptive technology in dentistry?

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In dentistry, robots are not as widely used as in medicine. Dentistry uses a few manual robotic systems controlled manually via the computer’s control interface. One of the most compelling arguments for robotic dentistry is the use of robots in dental clinics, particularly in the tasks of dental assistants.

Robots with 3D navigation can be used for invasive dental procedures such as tooth preparation and autonomous dental implant placement, in addition to serving as dental assistants. With full-body robotics, haptic interface technology, and advanced simulation, robotic systems can also play a role in education, particularly in training dental students.

Although dentistry offers multiple opportunities for robotic automation and assistive technology to enhance the quality of dental care, robotic transformation is still facing diverse types of challenges, such as high acquisition cost and innate intricacy. This post will explore some of the use cases of robots in dentistry.

1. Dental implantology

The success of dental implant treatment is highly dependent on the accuracy with which implants are placed. To reduce errors in implant positioning, dentists use surgical template guidance and navigation systems. However, the missing tooth site and mouth opening limitations may create awkward working positions, potentially causing operator fatigue and human errors. Robot-assisted implant surgery improves implant placement flexibility, stability, and accuracy.

2. Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery

As malignant oropharyngeal lesions are not always easily accessible, conventional treatment often entails radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. Mandibulotomy with mandibular displacement and lip split is the most common method of salvage surgery. Robotic oral and maxillofacial surgery is becoming an attractive possibility, especially in treating oropharyngeal carcinoma.

3. Prosthetic & Restorative Dentistry

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), approximately 113 million adults in the United States are missing at least one tooth. 19 million people are missing all of their teeth. Masticatory and vocal functions are severely harmed after natural teeth are lost due to changes in craniofacial morphology. Prosthodontics is required as soon as possible to restore craniofacial morphology and function in edentulous patients and protect the temporomandibular joint. Prosthetic dentistry robots can make partial or complete dentures. Robotics research in prosthetic dentistry would be a technological and theoretical breakthrough.

4. Endodontics

Root canal therapy necessitates a high level of precision and accuracy. Generally, a clinician specializing in endodontic works utilizes magnification to ensure sufficient vision of the root canal system. A robot system to assist while performing root canal therapy can provide the clinician with the required instrumentation for the procedure. This robot can be deployed for other applications, including preventing peri-implant infection or dental caries.

5. Oral Radiology

An oral radiologist can penetrate the oral cavity in almost every aspect of the tooth, minimally invasive. However, using robots can have several benefits. By applying robotics, the oral radiologist can work remotely to avoid any radiation exposure. A robotic system with many DOF in navigation makes dexterity much better than humans. As a result, navigation of radiographic tools in teeth with complex morphology and anatomy would be safer, simpler, and easier.

6. Dental Hygiene Applications

Removing plaque by powered or manual toothbrushing is the most productive preventive method for controlling oral diseases. Robotic systems could be used to compare and repeatably test the effectiveness of toothbrushes and their abrasion ability against dental enamel. Robotic brushing is a comparable technique to clinical hand brushing for removing dental plaque, according to a study that compared the efficacy of robotic brushing with clinical hand brushing. Robotic brushing may even replace manual clinical hand brushing.

Let’s sum up. Robots in dentistry improve accuracy, reproducibility, and reliability; however, due to a lack of accessible systems, the amount of research done in robotic dentistry is limited. Furthermore, there is a scarcity of knowledge about programming and controlling robotic systems. As a result, effective collaboration between dentists and engineers is required to research this field. Robotics in dentistry is showing promise in material testing, orthodontics, prosthodontics, oral surgery, and implant dentistry. Apart from difficult operating systems and high costs, the most significant limitations for robotic dentistry are the robots’ fundamental manipulation and sensory abilities and their lack of learning capabilities.

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