Digital dentistry has been talked about as the “future” of the industry for nearly two decades. But as digital dental technology gradually goes from ‘new’ to ‘normal’ in the dental clinic, where is dentistry heading next? The answer is likely to be found in one small, four-letter word – data.
Digital dentistry has been the oft-quoted “future of dentistry” for well more than a decade – and with good reason. Between then and now, new digital technologies have enabled same-day restorations of patient smiles,simplified workflows and patient communication, and, indeed, transformed diagnostic and treatment practices in the dental office. However, as digital devices gradually become standard in the dental clinic, where is the industry heading next? What’s the new “future of dentistry”?
Harnessing IoT in dentistry
In the last few years, the Internet of Things or IoT – essentially, devices exchanging data via a network – has become something of a buzzword, in dentistry as elsewhere. Behind the buzz, however, lies a real industrial shift towards ecosystems of network-based digital devices working side by side, hand in hand – generating large amounts of data as they go.
Solutions which depend on manual data entry to collect information on treatment content and the time used have long existed in the dental industry. Up until recent years, however, the activities and operations during treatment – such as chair times and equipment use – have remained largely out of reach. In order to access and collect this data, it is important to choose technology that is ready to ‘go online’.
In fact, Planmeca equipment has long been designed with this in mind. Our digital dental units, imaging devices and milling units have included network connectivity for more than a decade, relaying data seamlessly to our powerful Planmeca Romexis® software. All this well before IoT even really became a talking point in the tech industry.
Valuable insights through data analytics
IoT-ready devices capable of producing and transmitting big data provide visibility into the treatment session which is essential to evaluating all aspects of your clinic. The sooner you bring in the right technology, the more data you’ll have at your disposal. However, in order to get the most out of this enormous amount of available data, it must be harnessed into information in a way that is intelligent, centralised and automated.
The explosion of data in recent years has already led data analytics to become commonplace in fields such as marketing, modern education and business intelligence. In medicine, operating room analytics enables keeping track of e.g. case and procedure volumes, OR utilisation and scheduling efficiency. Now, dentistry is also following suit. In 2017, Planmeca was the first manufacturer of dental equipment to launch a comprehensive IoT solution for dental clinics with Planmeca Romexis® Insights.
Planmeca Romexis Insights is a web-based analytics service which combines data from Planmeca dental units, imaging devices and milling units to generate clear visualisations of equipment usage, device status and patient flows. From smaller clinics to larger clinic chains, the informative reports and interactive views enable identifying trends, patterns and areas of optimisation in order to maximise clinic efficiency. As the name says, it’s about gaining insights into how your dental practice is doing – anywhere, any time.
From “digital dentistry” to “data-driven dentistry”
There have been a number of innovations which have changed the course of dentistry. One major shift in the industry was the move towards digital dental technology, which led to the development of such concepts as same-day restorations and the paperless dental office. The emergence of analytics solutions for dental clinics is a clear sign that we are now in the middle of another shift, towards an era of “data-driven dentistry”.
Today, analytics services such as Planmeca Romexis Insights can produce comprehensive and relevant information about patient times, equipment usage and productivity, from the first appointment to the final check-up. Analytics helps make comparisons and pinpoint best practices both over time and across clinical procedures. This, in turn, can guide the entire dental team towards higher productivity, better outcomes and happier patients through continuous learning and self-improvement.
Tomorrow, we may see data analytics taken even further, through e.g. highly personalised treatments informed by enormous amounts of consolidated patient, performance and quality assurance data. Combining data with artificial intelligence is likely to offer still more possibilities for the future – some of which are already being explored by Planmeca R&D.
So what is the next “future of dentistry”? In such an ever-moving field, the possibilities are unlimited. If there is one thing which does seem clear, however, it is this: the future of dentistry will be driven by data.
Text by: Aleksandra Nyholm