The Avant Dental team continues to have our finger on the pulse of the trends set to shape the future of dentistry. Richard Salter, Managing Director of Avant, and I recently travelled to Cologne in Germany to take a first-hand look at the latest and greatest global dental innovations at the 40th International Dental Show (IDS).
And it didn’t disappoint. This year’s IDS was absolutely massive. According to the event organisers, 1,788 companies from 60 countries participated, with around 120,000 visitors from 162 countries exploring the enormous 180,000m² exhibition space over five intense days.
Here are the latest dental innovations we saw at this year’s IDS that are getting us excited:
1. 3D facial scanners to become a practice mainstay
Facial scanners create an extraoral 3D model of the patient’s face that your dental lab can use in conjunction with intraoral scans to create more comprehensive treatment plans. More accurate 3D facial scans can help us to more accurately evaluate the patient’s facial structure and aesthetics, which ultimately results in a more natural-looking prosthetic design that’s a perfect fit for the patient.
While hand-held 3D facial scanners have been available for a handful of years, we noticed some significant improvements in desktop facial scanner technology on display at the IDS.
Desktop facial scanners have a few important advantages over their hand-held alternatives. First, desktop facial scanners are typically more accurate than hand-held scanners and can be calibrated to capture images from specific angles. This results in more consistent and precise measurements. Desktop facial scanners are typically faster than hand-held scanners, generally produce higher resolution images, and may be more comfortable for patients.
We were particularly impressed with The RAYFace desktop facial scanner at the IDS. It can capture highly detailed 3D facial images with exceptional accuracy and resolution, and its simple user-friendly interface is quick and easy to learn. It is capable of capturing facial images in just a few seconds, and can be used for a wide range of dental applications, including orthodontic treatment planning, implant placement, and smile design.
2. Digital shade matching devices to change the game
Shade matching has stayed rooted in the analogue world with most dentists still relying on physical shade matching cards to select tooth shades by eye. Lighting conditions in the room can have a significant impact on accuracy, and inaccurate shade matching is a very common reason we see for remakes. This obviously has a negative impact on patient satisfaction, the treatment timeline and your bottom line. That’s why we are very excited by a digital shade taking device we found at the IDS.
This hand-held spectrometer uses digital technology to measure the colour spectrum of the patient’s tooth across 12 different surface points. This gives our technicians at the lab a precise ‘recipe’ of the patient’s shade spectrum we can use to produce incredibly accurate, consistent and natural-looking shade matches.
We expect this new digital shade matching accuracy to significantly reduce the need for remakes and deliver incredible natural-looking treatment outcomes that should keep your patients smiling from the outset.
We’re going to keep the brand name under wraps for now while we thoroughly test the device at Avant HQ, but we plan to make the technology available to all our valued dentists very soon.
3. Artificial intelligence to go to the next level
While some intraoral scanner software already incorporates elements of artificial intelligence (AI), our reconnaissance at the IDS suggests AI will play a much greater role in day-to-day dental practice in the near future.
Dental software providers are using increasingly sophisticated AI algorithms to analyse dental imaging data and assist dentists with diagnosis and treatment planning. Second Opinion by Pearl is a particularly impressive example. It is a cloud-based dental AI platform that uses AI to provide dental diagnoses based on its analysis of the patient’s dental images – including X-rays, intraoral cameras, and digital impressions.
Pearl has designed Second Opinion to detect common dental conditions, such as cavities, periodontal disease, and tooth fractures, as well as more complex issues, like impacted teeth and root canals. The platform can also provide treatment recommendations based on its diagnosis, and even offers educational information you can use to help the patient understand their condition and treatment options.
But Second Opinion won’t be replacing you any time soon. The system is heavily reliant on the image quality, so requires close human oversight. It’s currently limited to identifying common dental issues, and may not be able to identify rare or complex conditions.
Interestingly, Pearl has also extended AI into its cloud-based practice management platform. Practice Intelligence uses the data analysing power of AI to provide some relatively interesting insights into the practice performance. Automated reports can reveal your revenue trends, analyse your fees, and identify areas for improvement. That’s bound to be good for your business.
4. 3D printing remains limited for dentists
3D printing displays were everywhere at IDS. However, we were a little underwhelmed by the lack of advancement in the area. While we expect the release of 3D printing technology to be rapid over the next few years, material selection for dental applications seems to remain limited to resins.
In our view, 3D-printed resins simply cannot meet the strength and durability of superior ceramics, which limits their use in long-term dental restorations. There are also some questions around the biocompatibility of some 3D-printed resin materials, so it seems like the jury is still out when it comes to the long-term viability of the resins currently available for 3D printing.
We also still have concerns around the accuracy of 3D-printers for dental use. The accuracy of 3D printing can be affected by a number of factors, including the printer resolution, the design of the object, and the type of material being used. This can lead to inaccuracies in the final product.
While 3D-printing materials are likely to improve over time, we’d advise caution around risking a significant investment in the 3D-printing technology that’s currently available.
5. Clear aligner market set for significant growth
You’d be well aware of the large global clear aligner brands that are making it easier for dentists to offer an affordable cosmetic alternative to braces. But the new aligner milling technology we saw at the IDS suggests we’ll see the emergence of smaller aligner brands to rival the big players.
We saw a handful of milling companies that are bringing out clear aligner mills that are more affordable than traditional laser aligner cutters. This lowers the barrier to entry for new clear aligner brands, so we expect to see more aligner brands on the market soon.
But there’s an important caveat here. The aligners we saw coming out of these new mills did not have the same quality finish as the laser cutter we use for our Refine Aligner solution. So it could be worth having a conversation with any new aligner brands about the mill they’re using – and even comparing clear aligner samples from a few brands – before signing up for their product.
However, we did notice a couple of other exciting developments in the clear aligner space. GT FLEX® is releasing the world’s first 100 percent compostable, plant-based material for clear aligners and retainers – known as GT FLEX® GREEN. The material is BPA-free, latex-free, phthalate-free, gluten-free and food-safe. It’s made from GMO-free plants, totally free of traditional plastics, and is comparable to premium thermoforming plastics for ease-of-use and functionality.
We also saw the development of AI-assisted clear aligner monitoring platforms. Avant, for example, already has access to this technology for our Refine Aligner solution. We can use AI to assess the treatment progression, and ask the dentist to rescan if it’s not going to plan. While we’re seeing this technology become better and more accurate, it still requires an experienced technical team to oversee the AI-driven decision-making to confirm that it’s making the right choice.
5. Navigated surgery takes another step forward
Navigated surgery is becoming increasingly popular in implant dentistry and other surgical procedures, as it can improve the predictability, safety, and success rates of these procedures.
Navigated surgery uses advanced imaging and 3D mapping technologies to guide the placement of dental implants or other surgical procedures with a high level of precision and accuracy. It typically involves the use of special software that creates a virtual 3D model of the patient’s oral cavity and the surrounding bone structure.
During the procedure, the dentist or surgeon uses a handheld device equipped with sensors that communicate with the software. This allows them to navigate and manipulate the virtual model in real-time to better plan and visualise the optimal placement and angle of the dental implant or other surgical instruments before making any incisions or adjustments.
Once the plan is finalised, the software generates a surgical guide or template that can be used during the actual surgery to ensure precise and accurate placement of the implant or other surgical instruments. This technique can result in improved surgical outcomes, reduced procedure time, and decreased risk of complications.
ClaroNav’s Navident is an excellent example of how rapidly this technology has developed in the dental field. It is a breakthrough in computer-aided implantology that uses a CT and digital impression data to create a virtual model of the patient’s jaw in seconds. It then takes the software just a few minutes to plan the crown and implant placements, and it even displays the advance of the drill tip or implant in the patient’s jaw relative to surrounding structures and the implantation plan during surgery.
6. The rise of regenerative dentistry
Dental regeneration could be one of the most exciting developments in dentistry. It focuses on restoring the natural function and aesthetics of the oral cavity using the body’s own healing mechanisms.
That could include the use of stem cells to regenerate tissues such as dentin, bone, and gum tissue, or the use of the patient’s own blood plasma, enriched with growth factors, to stimulate tissue regeneration and healing (known as platelet-rich plasma therapy).
We’re also seeing more research into tissue engineering, which uses biomaterials and scaffolds to create new tissues such as bone and cartilage. Guided tissue regeneration also employs barriers or membranes to stimulate the growth of new bone or gum tissue in areas where it has been lost due to disease or injury.
There are even suggestions that dentists could eventually shape custom-made teeth from a patient’s genetic material.
Regenerative dentistry is a rapidly evolving field with the potential to revolutionise dentistry with a range of new self-healing treatment options. It’s certainly a space we’ll be watching closely.
Honourable mention: Digital occlusion analysis devices
We have to give a special shout out to the impressive little Myowise. It’s a wireless occlusion analysis device that the company claims is the smallest EMG sensor in the world. Myowise measures muscle activity, coordination and intensity to efficiently analyse dental occlusion effects on the performance of masticatory muscles. The goal is to help dentists reach a deeper comprehension of the oral physiology of your patients.
The T-Scan Novus is a similar hand-held digital tool that puts an end to using articulating paper to evaluate occlusion. It not only determines location, but also measures force and timing to help dentists identify premature contacts, high forces, and the interrelationship of occlusal surfaces.
The final word
The International Dental Show (IDS) is the largest dental trade show in the world, and the 2023 event brought together the latest technological innovations from across the globe.
While 3D printing and clear aligner mills may still have a little more progress to make until we’re ready to sing their praises, we can definitely see a pathway for artificial intelligence to become a genuine diagnostic assistant for dentists.
On the other hand, the IDS certainly opened our eyes to exciting advancements being made in navigated surgery and regenerative dentistry, and chair-side tools like 3D face scanners, digital shade matchers, and occlusion analysis devices are bound to become more common in day-to-day dental practice.
Want to find out more about how Avant can help connect you with the latest dental technologies? Please email [email protected] or phone 1800 287 336.