Can robots take over dentistry?

Would you trust a robot to treat your teeth? Well, this may be the near future as a robot in china has successfully completed dental treatment on a patient without any human input by placing a dental implant in a patient. Medical staff were on standby during the one-hour surgery in Xian, Shaanxi province, but they did not play an active role. Two new implants, created by 3D printing, were successfully placed into a woman’s mouth.

The robot was developed by Beihang University in Beijing and the Fourth Military Medical University’s Stomatological Hospital. Dr. Zhao Yimin, an employee at the hospital, explained that the robot was designed to carry out dental procedures and avoid mistakes made by human error. The robot was able to follow a set of pre-programmed commands to fit the implants into the patient’s mouth and impressively was able to make adjustments as the patient moved to ensure safety.

The inspiration behind designing such a robot was to help deal with China’s shortage of qualified Dentists. Hong Kong and Singapore are also facing a shortage of dentists, experts have warned. Unfortunately, this in effect can lead to people having poor quality dental work carried out by unqualified Dentists. The experiment carried out with this robot gives great hope to the above countries in restoring patients' accessibility to oral health care that they so desperately need.

According to the report, there are approximately 400 million patients in need of new teeth in China. Experts say robot surgery, or robot-assisted surgery, allows doctors to perform complicated surgery with more precision, but some question whether these operations are safe. In 2015, a US study researched the safety of robotic surgery and linked 144 patient deaths due to the use of the machines, although this only represents a tiny proportion of the total number of robotic surgeries.

In conclusion, there are great hopes for robotic dentistry and some promising trials have taken place, the overall increased need for dental care around the world and the shortage of Dentists further shows that robotic dentistry can have a much-needed place in our society, however, more research and precision is needed to ensure patient safety isn’t compromised and that treatment is implemented accurately.