Advancements in technology and computer science have led to a rise in robotic surgery for multiple medical specialties. Starting with the development of the da Vinci surgical system in the early 2000s to more advanced artificial intelligence (AI) techniques in use today. Similar revolutionary technologies are now being introduced into the dental field that can assist practitioners with a variety of procedures. The use of robotics in dentistry provides advantages over freehand techniques for placing instrumentation. These systems, along with navigational guidance, offer increased accuracy and precision in dental treatment as well as streamlined work processes and better workflows, resulting in a higher quality of care. Robotics-assisted dentistry has evolved from traditional navigational surgery to more complex systems that will prove to be essential in the maintenance of oral health, repair of oral lesions using nanomaterials, nanorobots, engineering of novel diagnostic, and therapeutic modes. While these therapeutic interventions alter our contemporary views and understanding, robotics systems are already being used in dental procedures and are assisting practitioners with implant treatment. Undoubtedly, other areas of dentistry that could benefit from robotic systems and AI applications include endodontics, general procedures in restorative dentistry, orthodontics, and periodontics.
Several concerns arise when considering implant surgery, such as an injury due to perforation of the maxillary sinus, inferior border, lingual plate, labial plate, or inferior alveolar canal; nerve injury; tissue necrosis; and dehiscence. Furthermore, injuries during implant placement can cause infection and initiate chronic complications within the sinus cavity. Beyond injury and infection, implant failure is also a risk, with approximately 5% to 10% of dental implants failing. Failed implants can result from the lack of clinician experience, implant location, bone characteristics, and patient-related medical complications. With the assistance of robotics and surgery, clinicians can achieve more successful implant placement procedures and lower the risk of failure. By providing the clinician with assistance as well as the freedom to change course during implant surgery.
During traditional guided implant surgery, a surgical guide is placed to help the clinician navigate drilling. However, surgical guides may be ill-fitted or seated improperly, causing incorrect angulation while performing surgery. In addition, the surgical guide requires a longer drill, which means the patient has to open his or her mouth very widely to allow the clinician more room to work, a problem for some patients.7Furthermore, guided implant surgery is considered to be static and creates limitations when the clinician needs the ability to change direction during the procedure.
Robotic surgery allows for consistency, superior workflow efficiency, and increased patient safety; all of which lead to higher
Success rates are promising for all dental specialties. Considering endodontic procedures require extreme precision and accuracy, endodontic microrobots can improve the quality and reliability of endodontic therapy. Commonly, endodontic issues such as perforation, or improper canal preparation can occur as a result of endodontic treatment. Much like dental implant surgery, treatment outcomes vary depending on clinician experience and skill.
However, endodontic microrobots provide an opportunity to increase the quality of endodontic treatment and to reduce errors during the procedure. For example, the Advanced Endodontic Technology Project uses micromachine technology, in which a microrobot is mounted on the tooth in need of treatment and is computer-controlled and monitored as it performs the root canal. In short, the micromachine provides automated precision probing, drilling, cleaning, and filling to assist the clinician in providing error-free therapy. While navigational surgery, robotics, and microrobots are making their way into dental treatment, other opportunities for robotics within the dental field exist through nanotechnology.
Nanotechnology refers to the designing, building, and engineering of nanobots. Nanobots are microscopic robotic machines that are close to a nanometer in size, may consist of thousands of mechanical pieces, and can be used to interact with cells in the human body. Currently, under development, nanobots are expected to change medical diagnosis and treatment, as well as methods of drug delivery. Furthermore, nanotechnology may play a vital role in surgery, the treatment of cerebral aneurysms, gene therapy, cancer detection and treatment, and general diagnosis and treatment within the dental space.
Robotics systems continue to support doctors in the medical field with assistance in the cardiac space, orthopedics, and neurosurgery. Robotics, microbots, and nanotechnology have the potential to support dentists and positively impact the field of dentistry. However, compared to their counterparts in the medical field, dentists have been slow to adopt this new technology. As a case in point, dentistry appears to be more than a decade behind in adopting or integrating new technologies on a widespread basis.
It is important to note that as each of these AI and robotics developments advance in health care, it will be better for experts to explain the benefits of these advances, rather than the technology, to increase the adoption curve and lessen any fears about the use of AI and robots in the medical space.
As dental professionals, it is important to embrace new technologies and be educated on the associated risks and benefits when used in dentistry.
The realization that new and emerging technological innovations may provide alternative treatments to patients while enhancing workflow, increasing production, and improving the quality of care is on the horizon. Considering that the overall goal in dental care is to provide optimal patient treatment, it is worth reviewing these applications and their potential to increase the quality of dental care.
Robotics and AI techniques can provide dental practitioners with valuable information in real-time, allowing for more thorough examinations, accurate diagnoses, and clinical decision support throughout dental procedures.
The quest for advancements in dentistry is never-ending, and the use of robotics for dental treatment could soon become standard practice for all dentists.