It’s true: your parents’ parents were given the same basic advice for oral health self-care as you’re given today:
- Brush your teeth
- Floss between your teeth
- Visit your dentist
While some of the tools have changed a bit and the guidance has become a little more detailed over the years (twice per day for at least two minutes, right?) there haven’t been a lot of major changes or brand-new technologies impacting at-home oral health care in a very long time. Even when you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair, most of what they’re doing is a routine that’s been largely unchanged for years now.
But, the wait is over. Disruptive technology has finally infiltrated the dental care industry, and there are now a host of new tech options available for at-home or in-office care, with even more exciting possibilities on the horizon. The following are just a few examples of exciting trends in dental technology you can potentially start using today.
Tooth whitening is a cosmetic dental care procedure that was originally available only at your dentist’s office. Then, a large number of at-home tooth-whitening kits hit the market in various forms, from adhesive strips to gel-filled applicators that molded to your smile. Some proved too harsh, uncomfortable, or ineffective, so the market has leveled off as the safest and most effective products have risen to the top of the heap.
A newer option that’s becoming very popular is the tooth-whitening pen. It looks and operates like a marker, but the “ink” being spread on your teeth is actually teeth-whitening gel. While these pens have been around for a short time, the technology has improved recently, to the point where some dentists are recommending prescription-strength versions for their patients in lieu of in-office whitening treatments or expensive and complicated at-home whitening kits.
Ask your dentist if you may be a candidate for this quick and convenient path to a more brilliant smile.
While we’re not all living in true Smart Homes just yet, it’s becoming far more common for the average home to sport appliances, thermostats, and other devices that are part of the Wi-Fi-powered Internet of Things (IoT). From cameras in our doorbells that make us feel safer, to smart speakers that let us talk to the Internet, these devices add a whole new dimension to life within our walls.
But, did you ever think there would be an AI-enhanced IoT toothbrush? It’s not as crazy as it sounds.
Big name toothbrush makers like Philips and Oral-B have had smart toothbrushes on the market for a few years now. These toothbrushes connect to an app on your phone via Bluetooth to help you track and improve your brushing habits. Opinions vary as to how necessary this kind of functionality is, considering the average $100 price tag of these units. But, dentists and manufacturers agree that whatever helps people improve their oral health habits has a place in that individual’s regimen.
The reason smart toothbrushes are expected to trend now and in the near future is because costs always drop off significantly as the novelty wears off and new brands enter the market. That’s likely to happen very soon.
Natural oral health care products
A move toward more natural foods and other products has been impacting the consumer goods market for years now, but it’s relatively new to affect at-home or in-office oral health care.
Now, more than ever, you can find options for natural toothpaste, natural mouthwash, and just about every other dental product you can think of in versions made with more natural or organic ingredients. These brands are also taking a harder look at their manufacturing and sourcing processes to meet the growing consumer demand for products that are produced ethically and with a sound environmental conscience.
Some examples you can expect to see flying off store shelves near you include charcoal- and jojoba oil-based toothpastes, toothbrushes made from bamboo, and floss made with no synthetic wax.
While handling basic oral hygiene has long been an at-home, self-care priority, those of us who grew up with braces and similar orthodontic treatments remember making monthly visits to the orthodontist for adjustments and exams. There’s no way that can be done at home, right?
Actually, now there is.
Once again, the at-home aligners available through brands like SmileDirectClub, SmileLove, and Instasmile are not brand-new technology. They’ve been available for a few years now. They’re also still controversial, and it makes good sense to discuss their use with your dentist before committing to a purchase.
But, they’re definitely trending up at this point because of the combination of improved efficacy and decreasing cost. If you discuss this option with your dentist and he or she agrees, you may be a good candidate for at-home orthodontics, this could be a great time to consider it.
While we’re not quite at the point where the average consumer can obtain a dental laser for use at home, the increased adoption of many forms of laser dentistry by thousands of dentists across the country makes this a trend that’s likely to impact your next routine dental visit.
Laser dentistry has technically been around since 1989, although it took several years for the FDA to approve the use of a laser for dental procedures and the ADA still has not done so. That hasn’t stopped the technology from improving dramatically since it was first introduced. It’s become common knowledge among dentists that using a laser instead of more traditional tools can make many common procedures faster, more comfortable for the patient, and less expensive to perform while being just as effective.
As a result, more dental professionals than ever before are getting trained and certified in laser dentistry and obtaining the necessary equipment to offer their patients everything from teeth whitening to treatment for gum disease. Once again, speak to your dentist to see if they offer laser dentistry and whether it can benefit you.
For this last trend, we’re looking pretty deep into the crystal ball, but…
Robots equipped with artificial intelligence have already proven their ability to perform minimally invasive dental procedures without human intervention. Think x-rays, digital impressions, and taking measurements inside your mouth. While some offices are already equipped with robots capable of cleaning teeth or handling whitening procedures, they’re running into patient consent issues as humans struggle with the idea of a robot probing their mouth with sharp instruments.
However, where ground has really been broken recently is in the use of robots in more invasive procedures. This has long been the case in other medical professions, such as when a robot assists in — or leads — surgery. But, it wasn’t until early 2018 when a robot in China performed the first solo robotic dental implant procedure without human intervention.
Since that announcement, the industry has been moving faster in the direction of AI-powered robotic dentistry. Perhaps you’ll get your first robo-cleaning this year!