Digitalization, cloud technology, and new generations of smart-phones and other devices with integrated apps help patients track their diseases continuously. Activity trackers, smartwatches, glucose monitors, and other wearable biosensor technology have become a part of our lives. Like any other healthcare sector, Dentistry also has entirely transformed due to the establishment of computer-based advanced technologies, new preventive disease measures, and improved diagnostic techniques in the last few years.
Internet of Dental Things (IoDT) is an innovative approach to achieve prevention and management of dental caries, periodontal diseases, oral cancers, and other dental diseases. A ‘smart’ dental health care approach shows great potential in reaching out to the patients in a growing number of dental disciplines such as oral and maxillofacial pathology and surgery, periodontics, prosthodontics and implant dentistry, and oral public health.
Smart toothbrushes come embedded with a plethora of technologies such as cameras, pressure sensors, and much more to track the brushing activity and replicate an oral examination procedure during the routine brushing procedure. The dentist can thereby examine the individual's teeth from the camera's data during the brushing activity. Additionally, pressure sensors attached can be utilized to determine if the brushing process is carried out correctly. All the data can be shared with the dentist in real-time and thus increases the preventive care process.
The smart brush would even take intraoral images, which are then sent over to the server. Artificial Intelligence algorithms would analyze these images and scan them for signs of cracks, caries, or any other abnormalities which require a specialist's attention. If the preliminary scans show anything of concern, both the patient and the clinician would be notified via mobile apps, and the suggestion to make an appointment at the dental clinic would be made to the patient.
Kolibree smart electric toothbrush and Philips’ Sonicare smart toothbrush comes packed with sensors in its handle to provide real-time feedback via a companion app warning you if you are applying too much pressure to brush and even coach the user on how to brush correctly. What’s more? For those patients who don’t want a novelty brush but still need to improve their brushing habits, Brushlink has created an attachable device to click on any brush and make it “smart"!
Implantation of advanced chips within the prosthesis or chipping off part of the existing tooth to implant the chip could monitor numerous factors. These implants would help create "Smart Teeth" that can detect saliva's pH, food intake, the quantity of acidic beverages and food consumed, blood alcohol level, etc, and analyze the data via artificial intelligence and big data analytics to develop patterns and associations. This could result in a rise in preventive dentistry based on individual patients' recommendations.
The 2030 roadmap of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research aims to accelerate oral biodevices by advancing technologies. A collaborative initiative at the U-M School of Dentistry has come up with a Smart dental implant that is a new smart, cyber-physical dental implant system that claims to overcome several challenges of current artificial implants and is likely to enhance patient outcomes, overall health, and quality of life.
IOT Diet wearable
Scientists at Tufts University have developed a wearable sensor to utilize the preventative potential of IoT. The wearable sensor can be attached to a tooth to track a user's diet based on chemical changes in the mouth. The sensor, which is mounted onto a tooth and communicates wirelessly with a mobile device, transmits information on glucose, salt, and alcohol intake. The subtle device has a 2mm x 2mm footprint and transmits data in response to an incoming radio signal. The technology has obvious. Giving the dentist insight into caries-prone high-risk patients' dietary habits goes a long way in preventing dental caries before it becomes severe.
Teledentistry services offered by companies like The Teledenists and MouthWatch provide easier access to oral and dental care; are significantly cheaper for patients; shift towards more reasonable prevention practices, and allow patients to consult otherwise unavailable medical professionals. For instance, MouthWatch’s TeleDent service offers an all-in-one teledentistry platform enabling patients to capture images, send relevant information to a dentist remotely, and do a live consult. The dentist might start a video chat with the patient and the caregiver so that the medical professional can see and talk to the patient, build rapport, help connect them and bring them into the office (if necessary).
With the advent of smart-phones and apps, the potential for improved oral care and home diagnosis has dramatically increased. One startup hoping to make this process more efficient is ToothScan via IndieGoGo. Their toothbrush sized device acts as an early detection tool for dental problems is twinned with an app and is designed to be analyzed by dentists. The diary app keeps track of any conditions and can prompt when an appointment or treatment needs to be had.
Personalized dental insurance plans
An accurate estimate of the actual need for treatment that would arise in the future results in lowering the premiums required by providing an accurate picture of future claims' likelihood. Depending upon the personal data, the insurance companies can come up with dental insurance plans curated at an individual level, resulting in optimal insurance utilization, leading to lower premium amounts.
Beam Dental, which started in the smart toothbrush space, has now expanded into dental insurance. The company uniquely sells a semiannual subscription service that consists of a Bluetooth-enabled sonic toothbrush — the Beam Brush — along with paste, floss, and refill heads. Customers optionally sync after each brush with Beam's companion smart-phone app, which spits out a grade from "A" to "D" depending on how consistently they’ve kept up with their excellent hygiene routines. The better a group performs overall, the greater the cost savings on their monthly premiums; top brush scorers earn just over 10% off.
Neocis Robot Surgeons
Florida based startup Neocis has developed a robot called Yomi that assists in dental implant surgery. It can manage treatment, keep track of patients, and most importantly, helps dentists be more precise with implants. There is a massive surge in robotics in dentistry, and there may come a time when robots carry out whole procedures that are safer and more accurate than a traditional dental surgeon.
Carbon 3D Printed Dental Implants
Silicon Valley startup Carbon has 3D printed dental implant system, which speeds up the treatment process and brings down costs. In partnership with DENTCA and DREVE, they will focus on artificial gums, dental impression trays, resin for dentures, and other types of implants. Their unique printing process fuses light and oxygen to quickly print its designs from a pool of resin.
Smart Mouth Guard
The biggest challenge in the management of bruxism (teeth grinding) is that it often takes place in the patient's sleep, and thus the patient is not conscious of the practice. Smart Mouth Guard is a boon to people under stress diagnosed by the grinding of teeth. Due to the sensors embedded in the mouth guard, which detects the vibrations caused by grinding, they are being warned by alarms send via "Bluetooth' to their "Smart-phones.'
Mouthguards act as a preventive measure to treat bruxism, but the use of IoDT in the form of pressure sensors attached to the mouthguards can be a more effective way to treat the condition. The device could identify the areas of teeth that are most affected by the clenching and grinding. Identifying tooth surfaces subjected to the maximum amount of pressure can help dentists devise effective treatment and restoration plans. The data so gathered has the potential to help find a cure for bruxism.
Future of IoT
Patient care is becoming more mobile-oriented, and IoT devices are instrumental in letting the patients be in charge of their health while easily sharing this data with their dental practitioners. IoT could play a vital role in the collection and monitoring of patients' data for oral health care; moreover, this data could be used in eventual risk assessment and further research as it mainly focuses on preventive care solutions by identifying the cause of the dental health issue at the earliest by exchanging data between the dentist and the patient round the clock.
Patient privacy, confidentiality, anonymity, data security, online professionalism, issues of aggressive or misleading social media, and informed consent are many of the daunting problems related to IoT. In addition to those issues, image forgery aimed at scientific misconduct and insurance fraud also has been reported. Nonetheless, the future of dental practice belongs to IoT where with the help of smart devices, the dentists can look after their patients' dental health outside the clinic, and this approach results in better preventive dental care with improved health outcomes. Very soon, interconnected devices with the inclusion of other technologies like big data, IoT, and blockchain coupled with IoT will provide routine dental care inside and outside the doctor's office round the clock.