Smart Implants & The Future of Dental Innovation

Smart Implants & The Future of Dental Innovation

In September, Science Daily covered a recently published study from a collaborative of researchers at the Universities of Pennsylvania and Indiana. The paper presented research about new technology relating to dental implants, relatively new dental appliances that replace damaged or diseased tooth roots with metal implants. These replacement roots are then capped with an artificial tooth resembling the look and density of a real tooth. Dental implants are considered a more technologically advanced alternative to more established dental appliances, like bridges and dentures. This new study explores the ins and outs of so-called smart implants that combine photo-therapy and the use of novel materials to curb bacterial growth in the mouth.

Many dental problems proceed from the build up of harmful pathogens in the gums and teeth. Smart implants use a new, nano-particle based material that prevents bacterial buildup. In addition, each implant would sport a tiny, built-in light source, which would draw power from the everyday motions of the mouth, including chewing and brushing the teeth. This form of power generation would not require disposable or rechargeable batteries of any kind. Photo-therapy has proven useful in destroying the build up of bacteria that causes tooth decay and some gum diseases. The researchers found that the combination of this new material and a self-sustaining form of photo-therapy, "... can successfully protect gingival tissue from bacterial challenge."

Understanding Dental Innovation

The smart implant study earned the researchers a spot as finalists in the Science Center's QED Proof-of-Concept Program, which provides funding to academics engaged in research projects that have potential commercial value. Even if the researchers manage to earn funding, it will be a long time before this technology makes it to the mass market. It will take even longer for many dental insurers to begin covering the technology.

Still, it's worth considering what this illustrates for dental technology around the country. The pandemic has arguably accelerated dentists' reliance on technology, including relatively new technologies like telehealth and 3D printing. Even without considering the impact of the pandemic, dentistry is arguably one of the most technologically innovative fields in medicine today. Whether we're talking about smart implants or something else, it's likely that many professionals will need to think critically about what new technology they should adopt into their practices.

In a 2017 article in Dental Economics, Dr. Howard Golan gives advice to practice owners who are considering how they should invest: "I would urge you to review which [technology] would have the most tangible impact on your ROI and patient care." ROI is short for return on investment, and it measures the amount of income generated from a particular investment. In other words, dentists should invest in those technologies that will not only make them money over the long-haul but will also improve outcomes among their patients.

Time will tell how smart implants or a similar technology will affect patient care and practice income, but there are a handful of newer technologies that have already proven to be reliable, safe, and profit-generating. The American Dental Association's annual technology survey identifies four technologies that today's dentists repeatedly indicate as good investments--two of which, intraoral scanning and 3D printing, we've covered here.

With everything that's out there, you may need help determining which product is right for you. You may also need help successfully implementing the technology in your office, as well as help knowing the best practices for keeping everything secure. If you'd like to know how a managed IT provider like Titan Tech can help you grow your practice, drop us a line for a free consultation.

And join us on Thursday for more tech news.