Dentistry is a very forward-looking industry. We are always trying to find the new best solution to the problems our patients face in maintaining their oral health. And we won’t be satisfied until we find the optimal solution to all these problems. We’ve already found many great solutions to problems that were considered unsolvable for millennia. Dental implants, for example, give us fully functional and fully healthy tooth replacements. Lithium disilicate crowns mean that we can have all-ceramic restorations that can stand up to the strongest bite forces. We now use lasers to treat cold sores so they go away faster wand with less discomfort. And digital imaging means that we can take impressions without patients biting down into an impression tray. So who knows what the near future of dentistry will hold?
Here are some big trends in dentistry that will be shaping the industry in the near future.
We can’t treat problems that we don’t know are there, so diagnosis is always the first problem of dental treatment. In the past, diagnostic treatments were invasive, unpleasant, and potentially damaging, but we’ve developed new diagnostics tools. For example, DIAGNOdent lets us find more cavities than ever–without scraping your teeth. We can also use light detection to screen for oral cancer with Velscope and OralID.
But it seems that new diagnostic technologies will focus on gum disease. Two technologies are currently in development that will help us find gum disease more easily than before. The first is a simple chewing gum that turns bitter if you have gum inflammation.
The second starts with a simple squid ink gargle. Yeah, that’s right: squid ink. When you gargle with it, the ink fills into your periodontal pockets, a laser is shone into your mouth. The laser causes microscopic heating of the ink, which causes slight swelling in your gums. An ultrasound scan of your gums will then reveal the depth of all your periodontal pockets–without probing.
The first technology seems a sure-fire hit if it proves accurate in future studies. The second seems a bit convoluted.
Tooth regeneration has long been an ideal of dentistry. It isn’t as necessary now that dental implants have proven to be so successful, but there would still be some value in being able to have your teeth repair cavities without need for fillings–and maybe in some cases regrow your natural teeth.
There has been extensive progress made in this field recently. A team of researchers used an Alzheimer’s drug to regrow dentin, the layer of your tooth underneath the enamel.
But even more dramatic is the fact that researchers were recently able to make a beagle regrow a lost tooth in just 180 days using stem cells. Although it’s not as fast as a dental implant procedure, this is still an exciting option that might be a better alternative for some people.
Less Is More
This is a future dentistry trend that’s already here. Not all of our advances in understanding require technical apparatus to improve treatment. As we’ve come to better understand the developmental interactions among the various components in our mouth–tongue, teeth, chewing muscles, cheeks, and more–we realize that possibly all the tools we ever needed for orthodontics are actually already there.
Enter myofunctional therapy, which uses these mechanisms to provide orthodontic treatment as well as help with TMJ and sleep apnea. It’s already being applied to children via Healthy Start to help them avoid breathing problems and possibly orthodontic treatment in the future. As we come to an even greater understanding of the potential of this approach, we’ll see it expand to more applications and be adopted by more dentists.
But we’re offering this remarkable approach of the future today.