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What’s coming down the pike in the dental profession?
A plethora of dental research is underway in the US as well as globally. Some of these advancements will come to fruition and be commercially available, and some will die on the vine. There are innovations in essentially every dental discipline, with breakthroughs that have the potential to enhance oral health in ways we couldn’t imagine in the past.
The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) will increase in the future. AI is already at work in hospitals to diagnose cancer and anticipate trends in health care. AI will have a significant effect in the dental profession on a daily basis, from evaluating images for pathology, to prosthetics and systemic care, among many others. AI promises to increase efficiency in dental practice by facilitating faster diagnosis, predictive analytics, and autocharting.
Other areas of research and development include gene therapy and stem cells. Research is underway using gene therapy to restore salivary function in patients who have undergone radiation treatment, which could be a tremendous improvement in health for these individuals. The negative impact of dry mouth extends far beyond the discomfort associated with inadequate or complete lack of saliva. It has a significant effect on the quality of life of the individual and the health of the oral cavity. The ability to restore salivary function could be life-changing for many people.
Other initiatives involve transformative research in periodontics, specifically agents operating on the host response and others applied to the diseased periodontal pockets. Some of the research on host-response therapies involves agents that repair the immune system dysfunction responsible for tissue degeneration. This is accomplished by using minute quantities of an agent that creates a gradient, resulting in the mobilization of regulatory cells that dampen down the inflammatory response, which is responsible for the tissue destruction that accompanies periodontal disease.
Some of the research focused on the clinical application of agents into periodontal pockets does not involve antimicrobial therapies, but rather are regenerative in nature. Preparation of the affected area is simple and quick, followed by application of the regenerative agent. Clinical trials have demonstrated significant pocket depth reduction and bone regeneration. If these results are consistent and reproducible, a complete paradigm shift in the treatment of periodontitis could occur—one that is essentially noninvasive, quick, and inexpensive.
There are a number of disruptive technologies in various stages of development that will dramatically change the manner in which we practice dentistry. Some of these changes will mirror developments in the medical profession, such as gene therapy and influencing the immunoinflammatory system to reduce tissue damage, which ultimately benefits the individual’s oral and overall health.