Peek into the digital future

What trends will sustain the positive momentum of digital dentistry? Rune Fisker, SVP of 3Shape, shares his insights.

The digital era is here. From artificial intelligence, automated processes, and so much more, an array of dental treatment options are now accessible at a practitioner’s fingertips. These technologies have elevated the standards of dental care to a new height which would not be otherwise possible.

Leading this revolution is 3Shape, a developer and manufacturer of 3D scanners and CAD/CAM software for the dental and audio industries based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Since the launch of 3Shape’s first dental lab scanner software in 2005, the company has continuously innovated and reinvented their product solutions.

Over the years, 3Shape has supported many dental professionals in embarking on their digital journey, even more so when facing the unprecedented challenges brought by the pandemic. According to Fisker, due to COVID-19, digital adoption was dramatically pushed forward by three to five years.

What will continue driving its growth? He highlighted five major trends:

Intraoral scanning will keep driving digitalisation. The use of intraoral scanners (IOS) in dental clinics has skyrocketed and already penetrated 30-35% in the US and mature markets.

A small, handheld device that builds a digital model of the teeth and surrounding structures, many clinicians consider IOS their entry point in digital workflow – streamlining the cumbersome procedure of taking an impression and sending it to the lab.

Speaking with Prof Dr Lucio Lo Russo, an Italian dentist, regarding the hygiene aspect of digital pathways, Fisker shared that besides the time and money clinicians save using a digital workflow, another important aspect to consider was safety.

Highlighting that digital workflow has become a means for professionals to avoid cross-contamination issues, he explained: “Remember, there is no impression material to handle or ship with a digital workflow. So aside from eliminating the possible breakage of models with all the handling, professionals no longer need to touch, share, or ship models back and forth.

“All those objects which were in contact with the patient’s mouth are theoretically, potentially infected. If we are not transferring anything from the clinic to the lab, we are reducing and controlling any chance of infection.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is here. A field that combines computer science and robust datasets to enable problem-solving, AI has finally made its mark on CAD/CAM. This past year, Fisker shared that with the launch of 3Shape Automate, scans can now be uploaded to the cloud, and practitioners can fully design a crown using AI.

3Shape has also utilised this technology in TRIOS intraoral scanner to allow user of any skill level to capture accurate digital intraoral impressions with greater ease in less time.

“There will be much more to come as AI is making computers and people smarter and faster across all applications in digital dentistry,” he continued.

Aligners and dentures are rapidly adapted. Fisker said that cosmetic dentistry and clear aligners will continue to push digitalisation forward, driven by consumer demand for aesthetics. While dentures remain the big missing indication, he noted that their stats show that this is changing fast with three-digit growth in digital denture cases.

For instance, considering Asia’s ageing population, he said: “When treating older patients, digital dentistry delivers higher efficiency, better clinical results and an overall improved patient experience that further accelerates digital adoption.”

3D printers are hot. A true game-changer will be 3D printing materials, Fisker emphasised, as new and improved materials are being released every day.

He elaborated: “Driven by new printing materials, high-quality splints are a reality and I believe, 100% 3D printed final dentures will soon take off. Ultimately, all indications will have the potential to be 3D printed, which would make the major question being how deep will 3D printers penetrate the practice?”

With strong technology development and approximately only 5% of the world’s dentures presently being manufactured digitally, Fisker foresees that the industry will witness a lot of growth in this area. As printing materials become better, he added, more and more types of restorations will be printed due to their affordability, speed, and practicality.

The dental platform race has begun. 3Shape is one of the key drivers globally for this trend and is playing a crucial role in their rapid adoption as reflected with the launch of their Unite platform.

Fisker elaborated: “Like all industries, platforms have disrupted the way we live. Think Netflix or Spotify. With Unite, our goal is to deliver a similar and seamless service where professionals can pick and choose their treatment partner just like they would pick the next movie to watch.”

Continue reading here. Published in Dental Asia September/October issue.