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Artificial Intelligence & Virtual Reality in the Dental Office

After visiting the Chicago Midwinters Dental show in February, we at Dental Card Services left shaking our heads in amazement. Were we at a tech savvy futuristic robotic show, or were we at a dental convention? The cool thing we realized is-we were at both! This year’s convention brought so many state of the art innovations, it is hard to pick our favorites, but here are two we think deserve some extra attention from the dental community.

The first is the CEREC® Primescan, the new intraoral scanner from Dentsply Sirona. From the company that created the cad/cam category over 30 years ago, CEREC® Primsecan takes the evolution of cad/cam to another level. The Dentsply Sirona engineers in Bensheim should be applauded for balancing the incredibly difficult task of balancing maximum data capture and speed. Perhaps the most exciting part of this new CEREC product is the use of artificial intelligence. As Dr. Bernhild-Elke Stamnitz explained in her press article written February 4, 2019 for Dentsply Sirona, the new software “learns” with the user. “Not only are the initial suggestions for the crown improved by artificial intelligence, the entire workflow is supported by the software, in many areas. In this way, the indications for the restoration are automatically recognized, and the preparation margin is delineated. The axis for the model is also set fully automatically.”

The second of our cutting-edge new products that caught our attention was the OperaVR® tool. As everyone who has ever been a dental patient (or clinician!) knows, patient anxiety is one of the most common complaints/discussions in the dental universe. In the past dentists have relied on everything from prescription medication to nitrous gas in an attempt to alleviate patient anxiety. How cool is it that now patients can enjoy a drug-free AND entertaining and calming session in the dental chair? OperaVR is a headset the patient puts on before the procedure begins-the patient can choose a multitude of virtual viewing experiences-all of which are calming in nature. The patient can watch videos of animals, ocean life, waterfalls, a beautiful sunset, or a ride along a sunny coastline, the purpose of which is to “transport” them to a place of tranquility and escape. Patients have reported relief in not having to see tools and needles, not being aware of how long a procedure may be taking, and most importantly, significant reduction in complaints of pain and anxiety in coming back for future visits. Clinicians are also alleviated the burden of trying to “distract” particularly anxious patients. OperaVR claims in its research that “VR distraction had effects not only on immediate experiences but also upon the vividness of memories after the dental experience had ended. Participants with a higher dental anxiety showed a greater reduction in memory vividness than lower dental anxiety participants. One study “suggests that VR distractions can be considered as a relevant intervention for cycles of care in which people’s previous experiences affect their behavior for future events.”

With technological innovations such as these, one could say patients may even look forward to going to the dentist! Both products have demonstrated massive benefits in cost savings, time management, sustainability and reduction in the usage of drugs in dental practices. Dentists not only get the advantage of working with products that enhance the quality of what they provide their patients, but they also see the benefits of where these products engage the patient more in their own treatment and time in the dentist chair. Patients are sure to feel a sense of control and understanding that they may not have had before.