Dental Technology in 2022: Past, Present, and Future Tech in Dentistry

Dental technology in 2022 has come a long way since the origins of dentistry, and it has a long way yet to go. The technologies that dentists use today would be unrecognizable to dentists from two or three hundred years ago. But the dental tech of tomorrow is right around the corner, and some of the most futuristic technologies are being implemented by dental practitioners worldwide. See the journey through time that dentistry has taken. Discover how tomorrow’s tech is much closer than you might think.

Dental Technologies from the Past to Present Day in 2022 and Beyond

From the advent of dentistry in the early medieval ages to today, dental technology and the work of dental technicians have drastically evolved. In medieval France, barber surgeons or “Surgeons of the Short Robe” were at the bottom of the professional medical hierarchy, succeeded by academically trained barbers or “Surgeons of the Long Robe” and physician-priests on top. Though they did not have any academic training, the lowly barber surgeons are the ancestors of modern-day dentistry.

 

During long voyages at sea or violent military campaigns and being at the bottom of the hierarchy, rulers called barber surgeons to practice their craft and provide medical aid in dire situations. These expendable practitioners were forced to innovate and invent new surgical technologies and treatments, some of which are still useful to dental professionals in 2022.

The Origins of Dentistry and Dental Tech

In the mid-1500s, the standard way to treat a bleeding wound was to cauterize it with boiling oil. Soldiers often died of shock or sepsis due to the treatment. A French barber-surgeon named Ambroise Pare decided not to pour boiling oil on soldiers’ wounds, instead wrapping the wound with a dressing. Pare served four French kings during his career and earned the nickname “the gentle surgeon.”

 

Though a crude example, this is one of the first instances of a medical innovation made by the predecessors of modern dentistry. Over a hundred years after the death of Pare, a French Naval surgeon apprentice named Pierre Fauchard became the “father of modern dentistry” in service to the court of Louis XIV. As a surgical apprentice at sea, Fauchard saw scurvy’s havoc on the gums of afflicted sailors.

 

Following his apprenticeship in the navy, Fauchard lacked the necessary funds to complete his surgical training. Instead, he chose to pursue dentistry, which he could afford. Incidentally, his time at sea had provided a more comprehensive range of experience than most other trained dentists in Paris. At the turn of the 18th century, only 21 dentists practiced in Paris; among them, Fauchard had the most significant expertise. By the end of his career, Fauchard had invented many novel dental technologies, including prosthodontic devices, cleft palate obturators, replacement teeth, and numerous new dental instruments. His seminal book, “Le Chirurgien Dentiste,” compiled his dental innovations and knowledge, instantly becoming the standard educational text for dentists and dental students across the globe.

Timeline of Dental Tech Inventions Post-17th Century

Following the publication of “Le Chirurgien Dentiste,” a renaissance in dentistry began to grow. During the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the world witnessed the invention of new dental technologies, many of which are still in use today:

 

  • Braces (France, 1819)
  • Amalgam (China, 600 AD, and United States, 1830)
  • Intraoral Imaging (France, 1839)
  • Dental Anesthesia (the United States, 1846)
  • Magnification in Dentistry (the United States, 1866)
  • Electric Dental Drill (the United States, 1875)
  • Dental Radiography (the United States, 1897)
  • Fluoride (the United States, 1901)
  • Electric Toothbrush (Switzerland, 1939)
  • Dental Handpiece (the United States, 1948)
  • Air Turbine Dental Drill (the United States, 1957)
  • Dental Implants (Sweden, 1965)
  • Digital Imaging (France, 1987)
  • Dental Lasers (the United States, 1989)
  • Caries Detection Technology (Germany, 1998)

Digital Dentistry (the 2000s to Present)

Digital dentistry is a term that refers to a collection of dental technologies working in tandem to optimize the patient’s experience and the quality of care they receive. In digital dentistry, computer-guided systems perform diagnostic and therapeutic tasks, from initial consultations to surgical assistance. Digitization of the tools and techniques in a dentist’s office brings together:

  • Intraoral Cameras
  • Digital Radiography
  • CAD/CAM (Computer-aided design/Computer-aided manufacturing) Technology
  • Computer Guided Surgery
  • Automated Information Management
  • CBCT Scanner/3D Imaging

The Near Future of Dental Technology

Digital dentistry has opened the door to a new world of dental technologies, including artificial intelligence, smart toothbrushes, regenerative dentistry, and more. Augmented reality is being utilized in dental schools for training purposes, and virtual reality is being used to ease dental anxiety while patients are in the chair.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In the realm of digital dentistry, AI shows unprecedented potential and utility. AI algorithms analyze vast amounts of data to enable a specialist to make the best possible diagnostic, surgical, and treatment decisions. AI is also being implemented in record-keeping and medical data management.

Computer-Assisted Dental Design and 3D Printing

3D printing technology has been around since the 1970s but has remained an untapped resource until recent years. In the past decade, 3D printer technology has become infinitely more affordable and available to the dental industry. In 2022, practices can print patients’ dental prostheses directly from the office with the help of computer-assisted dental design and 3D printing systems.

Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Teledentistry

When you think of augmented reality (AR), you probably think of a camera filter on your smartphone that gives you freckles or shows you as a cartoon. But with the help of innovative programmers, dental schools are using AR in the classroom to train students on dental procedures. One such program, DentSim Simulator, connects with a mannequin for students to get hands-on experience performing various surgical and dental procedures. AR dental training programs provide students with immediate feedback on their performance.

 

When it comes to dental or surgical fears or anxiety, virtual reality (VR) is being utilized to help patients relax. At your dentist’s office, augmented reality enables patients to see what the results of a procedure will look like beforehand and be an active member of the treatment planning. Likewise, in dental schools, VR provides immersive educational experiences and training programs. Students and dental specialists worldwide can attend live surgical demonstrations and conferences and consult from the comfort of their VR goggles.

 

Virtual reality is also expanding the reach and capabilities of teledentistry, allowing dentists to examine patients remotely. As computer-guided surgery, VR, and AI systems become more reliable, versatile, and integrated, you might see a day in the not-too-distant future when dental cleanings, root canals, and teeth extractions will take place from the comfort of your home.

Regenerative Dentistry and Gene Therapy

Even today, in 2022, the only way to replace a missing tooth is with an artificial restoration. But what if you could regrow your natural tooth? The field of regenerative dentistry is on the cusp of revolutionizing dental medicine with self-healing dental fillings. These sci-fi-like dental fillings enable a patient’s tooth to regrow. Scientists are making discoveries every day about the genetic construction of our cells, such as identifying the gene responsible for making plaque in your mouth. CRISPR is a gene-editing technology that might raise some eyebrows but holds groundbreaking potential for eliminating oral health issues like cancer and gum disease.

 

There has never been a better time to go to the dentist. Dentists have come a long way from their barber-surgeon beginnings, but the field still embodies the innovative spirit that distinguished it in medieval Europe. The future of dentistry is as bright as the smiles it creates, thanks to the technological strides and medical breakthroughs of those who came before and those who continue to push the boundaries of what is possible. Call our office to learn more about digital dentistry and how our team prepares for the future of dental technology in 2022 and beyond.