Digitalization and dental technology

It is nothing new that digitalization has a huge role in our lives, and technologies that years ago seemed fantastic and unthinkable are now becoming a reality. In the dental industry, the massive entry of the new technologies not only accelerates and improves the work process of the specialists, but also improves the medical products for the patients. The hesitant entry of innovations in the last century has led to the fact that today we can hardly imagine our daily lives without a computer and smartphone.

According to the forecasts , the Oxford study of 2013 by economist Carl Benedict Frey and computer scientist Michael Osborne, it is seen that 47% of jobs in developed countries will be lost due to incoming innovation and the replacement of human labor with that of machines. There is a debate about job positions in various industries – also among medical professionals – whether it is possible for a computer to completely replace a person and what the dental industry might look like in the near future.

Often, such studies lead to serious concerns and reluctance to accept innovations in the workplace. Fearing that the computer may replace them, some people forget that they are the ones who drive the machines. The fact is that some professions have become “boutique” or have completely disappeared. It is inevitable, considering the fact that the world is constantly evolving, and while in the 19th century the role of the chimney sweep was extremely important, today a person will be needed to clean the windows of skyscrapers. The computer does not push the person out of his main profession, but rather helps him to focus on what is really important in his work.

How does all this affect dentistry? How is it improving?

Computer systems assist dental technicians throughout the process – from the selection of the specialist who will work on the order, to the delivery of the final product: the ability of the machine to store information in databases, to facilitate communication between dental technicians, dentists and patients. Visualizing prototypes, printing and creating finished products are assets that any modern laboratory would be taking advantage of. Of course, the human factor remains the most important, because dental professionals are first and foremost masters and creators, and without their skills, all these support systems would be meaningless.

CAD/CAM systems are used for automated design and computer production: the design and production of prototypes, finished products and production cycles, and the product can be seen from different angles in a prototype environment. The use of CAD/CAM improves the visualization of the product before its preparation and subsequent production, and the application of these processes has improved and accelerated the work significantly. Despite the large and demanding digital systems, on the other side of digitalization are the so-called “soft skills” and the ability to communicate effectively with our environment. Computers and smartphones changed the way people communicate forever. The communication is important in absolutely every area of ​​our lives, for example for dental professionals in the work environment, it is essential for the implementation of a smooth work process. On the one hand, with the introduction of so many innovations and opportunities, we have a lot of options for choosing communication methods, but this often hides risks of lack of organization and consistency in the flow of communication and implementation of subsequent work processes.

Transparent and traceable communication between dentists and dental technicians is crucial for the quality of the products and the efficiency of work processes in dental laboratories. No modern technology would be fully used if there were gaps in the communication between dentists and dental technicians. Therefore, softwares, which focuses on organizing trouble-free communication and reducing the risk of errors in the transmission of information, ar gradually beginning to appear on the market. The storage of dental orders’ data on electronic media gives additional security that in case of possible loss the information will be saved. It is easier to work with data on electronic media, because it is easier and faster to systematize it and search for a specific order over time. Again, a key aim of this type of program is the joint work of dental technicians and dentists to obtain a common, better product.

So far, everything sounds really convincing, but like anything, the coin has two faces and no matter how many advantages it has, digitalization has its drawbacks. One basic and fundamental one is the cost of medical equipment, which sometimes costs larger amount than the cost of the laboratory space itself. Although modern equipment in itself reduces the cost of the product, and the investment pays off over time, experts such as Eurasiamed, which operates mainly on the market in Kazakhstan, advise to make a brief estimation before buying an expensive medical equipment and systems. It all depends on the size and capacity of the laboratory – according to their calculations at about 50 units per month, the cost of CAD/CAM equipment will return very quickly and the laboratory will recover its costs in about 6-7 months. For smaller laboratories, renting such equipment, purchasing second-hand equipment or combining the use of the service with other, smaller laboratories would be the better option in short term. Another disadvantage of powerful systems is that specialists need additional skills to work with them (training= time consumption and financial resources).

Of course, in the long run digitalization has its advantages. The investment in computer systems such as software: for orders, logistics, accounting, costs significantly smaller amount, but the real benefits of such systems are no less important. Investing in expensive equipment and downplaying the smaller details of it, could be an obstacle for using the entire capacity of the laboratory. Some specialists (more often observed in small laboratories) pay attention entirely to the quality of the product, partially or completely neglecting the communication with their colleagues and the placement of the product itself. In order for the work to run smoothly, the communication, time and resources must be optimized in order to establish a good connection with everyone connected in the work process. Softwares comes to help to facilitate communication between the dentist and the dentist, to manage and monitor the execution of orders and to organize the work in the laboratories.

Digital steps forward aim to improve human existence and development, and this also applies to the field of dental medicine. Technology is entering and debates are emerging about the benefits of innovation, and scales are generally leaning in favor of digitalisation as processes are improved, refined and accelerated. Fearing that the computer could replace the human factor, some experts rely on the traditional and refrain from innovation. We must always keep in mind that without the skills of the dental specialists in the laboratories, all digitalisation loses its meaning.

The computer would not be able to create a suitable environment for the patient, to understand the patient’s history and decide what would be best in the given case. Thanks to the creative thinking and creative process, the skills of the specialist remain the most important component for the correct treatment and the correct dental product. It is a matter of choice for the laboratory itself what techniques, systems and equipment it could apply according to its capabilities and aspirations for development, and the goal of all should be one: satisfied patients with big smiles.

References: -бъдещето на зъботехниката е дигитално – бъдещето на зъботехниката – колко добре зъботехниците за подготвени за бъдещето?