Regular readers of this blog will know all about how the Internet of Things, a network of objects that use digital sensors to collect data about their environment and share it over the internet, has completely revolutionized healthcare. Now patients can track their vitals with wearable activity trackers, receive remote telehealth examinations from caregivers using a webcam-enabled Medical Computers or Medical Tablets, and even do at-home triage with digital devices in the event of an emergency. 

So far, we’ve primarily focused on medical healthcare, but that’s only part of the picture. Like it has with all other pillars of the healthcare system, the Internet of Things has entirely remade dentistry as we know it.

A New Age of Digital Dentistry

In medicine, connected devices have allowed patients to keep abreast of their health at home and share important health information with their care providers remotely over the internet. The same is true in dentistry.

With the Internet of Dental Things (IoDT), gone are the days when your dentist would only get to examine your mouth during your yearly cleaning or when you have a toothache. Now, patients and their care providers track their dental health to a degree never before possible. This isn’t the future we’re talking about either. These changes are already here. We are in a new and exciting age of digital dentistry.

Below are some examples of IoDT technology and how they’re remaking the field of dentistry.

Smart Toothbrushes

If you’re like most people, you probably exaggerate how diligent you are about your oral hygiene when you go to the dentist. Devices like Smart Toothbrushes are not only programmed to track how often they are used but come with things like built-in smart cameras and digital pressure sensors that also help track HOW the brush is used.

Is the patient using too much pressure, or not enough? Are they adequately reaching the gumline? The smart brush can not only alert the patient of these issues in real-time but send the information to the patient’s dentist over the internet so they can know precisely how well you are keeping up with your oral health needs.

Smart brushes with built-in cameras can also be used to take what are known as intraoral photos – close-up photos of the inside of someone’s mouth. These photos can be sent over the internet to a medical panel PC where a software application can use them to construct a 3d model of the patient’s mouth and analyze it for any abnormalities like cracks or cavities. The software can then alert both the patient and their dentist so they can schedule an appointment for a more in-depth exam.

Moreover, patients do not need to upgrade to bulky electronic toothbrushes to benefit from smart brush technology. Peripherals like those made by Brushlink can be attached to an old-school manual toothbrush. Using cameras and timers, the Brushlink can track your brushing angle to ensure patients brush their entire mouth for a sufficient amount of time and relay that information to patients and providers via a mobile app.

Smart Teeth and Dental Appliances

While toothbrushes seem to be a natural place to add digital technology, what if it were possible to have sensors directly inside someone’s mouth? It may sound like a science fiction horror story to some, but the technology that makes it possible is already here and in use today. 

“Smart Teeth” technology comes in two forms: smart dental implants and smart wearable appliances. With smart implants, the sensors are embedded in an artificial tooth surgically implanted into a patient’s mouth. The sensors can collect all kinds of data bout the state of a patient’s mouth, such as pH, sugar intake, brushing frequency, etc. The data can be sent over the internet either to the cloud or a medical computer in their dentist’s office, where software can visualize the data, allowing dentists to formulate a personalized preventive dentistry plan tailored to a patient’s specific needs. 

For patients who do not need or want smart implants, wearable appliances can be equipped with similar digital sensors. For instance, Tufts University has developed a sensor that is merely placed on a patient’s teeth rather than surgically embedded in the patient’s mouth. The 2mm by 2mm RFID-enabled sensor can detect salt, sugar, and alcohol levels in the mouth and share that data with smartphones and Medical Tablets that have built in RFID-readers. 

It’s not general dentists who can benefit from this technology. In the future, it’s not hard to imagine this kind of sensor being added to orthodontic appliances like braces, retainers, clear aligners, etc., to help track a patient’s compliance with their orthodontic treatment.

Medical Tablets, Teledentistry, and Mobile Dental Care

Just as the pandemic has made plain the necessity for telemedicine and remote patient care, it has also amplified the need for teledentistry. And thanks to IoDT technology, teledentistry goes far beyond merely video chatting with your dentist. Not only is it possible to leverage the data collected by smart toothbrushes or intraoral IoDT devices, but many teledental service providers have their own stand-alone devices like handheld intraoral cameras that allow patients to receive oral exams right from the comfort of their home.

Sometimes, however, a home exam with a video conference just isn’t enough. Even patients in good oral health need to see their dentist in person from time to time to receive cleanings and take x-rays. For patients in urban and suburban areas with access to adequate transportation, this is relatively easy. Should issues arise in their telehealth exam, they can then schedule an appointment for an in-office visit and transport themselves to their dentist’s office. 

However, many patients, especially those in rural and underserved areas, will have a hard time getting themselves to a provider’s office should in-person treatment be necessary. Thankfully, just as in medicine, the digital dentistry revolution makes mobile dentistry more accessible than ever. 

Now, Rugged Medical Tablets with built LTE connectivity allow providers in Mobile Dental Clinics to access patient charts from the cloud, saving the need to carry around bulky paper charts and eliminating the redundancies inherent in paper charting. Not only that, but IoDT further automates the process by automatically logging the data they collect in patient’s charts, meaning mobile clinics can see more patients more efficiently.

Final Thoughts

Digital dentistry is not just the way of the future; it is the present reality of dental care. To find out how medical tablets and medical grade computers can enhance care at your dental practice, contact the experts at Cybernet today.