The dental practice of the future is the dental practice of today


By Dr Kavita Lobo, Bupa Dental Clinical Director.

I regularly discuss the concept of the ‘Dental Practice of the Future’ and new technologies with global colleagues and dental leaders as part of my role. Listening to their highlights and insights has reaffirmed my belief that the future is already here in Australia – with Bupa Dental Care already providing a number of new-age digital technologies.

3D impressions will be a key element of dental practices of the future

Intra-oral scanners (IOS), which take 3D impressions of the hard and soft tissue cavity of a patient’s mouth, will be required for any kind of digital clinical workflow in dentistry to take place.

The 3D images can then be uploaded to dental, AI or digital platforms to enable treatment simulations, training, treatment planning and designing and manufacturing dental devices such as implants.

This is particularly exciting for patients who will be able to see and understand their treatment in a new light. Imagine the joy of being a patient needing orthodontic treatments and being shown what you’ll look like once your treatment is complete.

Clinical colleagues in Hong Kong are expanding availability of IOS units to clinicians in their dental practices.

In Australia, we have IOS available in over 100 practices and plan to increase availability of this technology to more clinicians, enabling an improved patient experience and a seamless connection to many treatments that rely on a digital workflow.

We’re also analysing data from the current IOS use to tailor our education and training program and provide technology support to optimise the use of IOS.

Using AI and data to improve patient health and wellbeing (beyond what’s normally considered ‘dentistry’)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is bringing many advances to the world of dentistry, which will expand the opportunities for us to make a difference in people’s broader health and wellbeing.

One example is Bupa Dental Care’s partnership with HITIQ’s smart mouthguards, which is revolutionary in how it can measure head impact and concussion-related injuries.

The mouthguard uses measuring sensors that log impacts to the head and any force from hits sustained during a game. The sensors send the data to a mobile app that provides an alert to parents if a significant head impact is sustained. This means the player can then be checked by an appropriate medical professional for any concussion.

It’s fantastic that we can help make a difference in an area not normally considered “dentistry”.

The good thing is that getting fitted for a HITIQ mouthguard is the same process as getting fitted for a normal-fitted mouthguard.

Diagnosing dental issues early with AI

Our Spanish colleagues have begun a pilot of a system that allows them to detect and confirm dental pathology even in the very early stages using AI. It’s able to show patients a detailed report of their condition and ensure less mistakes are made along the way. It also helps with prevention, allowing dental practitioners to see the teeth and the surrounding tissues to detect any abnormality.

AI is helping us understand what the common pathologies are in the dental field, and how to treat and prevent them.

We’ll be running a practice pilot , commencing in June, to trial the use of AI as a diagnostic aide for clinicians and use it as a visual education means to explain oral health and treatment plans to patients.

It’s certainly an exciting time for the dental industry as customer/patient preferences are changing and new technologies are rapidly being introduced, the key is being ready, listening to feedback and taking patients along for the journey. The future of dentistry is well and truly now.