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Will Robots Replace Dentists?

In its annual “U.S. News Best Jobs” rankings, American media company U.S. News and World Report ranked being a dentist on the top of its list based on salary, expected number of openings, advancement opportunities, and career fulfillment.

Dentists received an overall score of 8.2 out of the possible 10. They are also considered well-compensated and earns an average of 152,700 US dollars in 2015, which increases annually. Dentists in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Charlotte, North Carolina are the highest-paid dentist with a salary of 286,460 US dollars.

Although dentists garnered average marks when it comes to opportunities for advancement, salary, and stress level, they had above average work-life balance. Most dentists work full-time as well as evenings and weekends. However, the field still allows a lot of flexibility and the chance to craft a work-life balance desirable for the dentist.

In 2016, there are more than 196,000 dentists with 21 percent working as dental specialists.

To be a dentist, high school courses in biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, and calculus are required. Before getting into a dental school, a bachelor’s degree is needed, and taking the Dental Admissions Test.

Getting into a dental school can get highly competitive and is based on GPA, admission test scores, recommendation, etc. It takes four years to finish dental school, excluding residency and specialization.

However, the field of Dentistry may change. Dentists may not be the “best job” as robots could soon take over the operating room of dental clinics.

Robots as Dentists

In China, two dental implants were installed on a woman by a robot dentist. Although human doctors supervised the procedure, they did not actively intervene. Instead, the robot followed a set of pre-programmed commands to do the dental implant procedure. The implants were fitted within a 0.2-0.3 mm margin of error which matches the standard for this type of process.

Developed by Stomatological Hospital and Beihang University, the technology was created to address the shortage of qualified dentists and frequent surgical errors in mainland China by combining dental expertise and technological benefits.

The robot does the surgery without human intervention, hence, preventing faults brought by human error. Due to the tiny space inside the mouth and areas that are difficult to see, oral surgery is usually complicated to administer.

Through the years, robots have increased their visibility in Dentistry by assisting dentists with various dental procedures, including root canal procedure and orthodontic treatments. Robots have also aided students in their dental training.

In March 2017, the first robotic system for dental implant procedures called Yomi, developed by Neocis, Inc., was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States. Yomi assists in the pre-operative and intra-operative stages of dental implantation surgery. It uses haptic robotic technology, controlling the drill in position, orientation, and depth, for physical guidance.

Unlike China’s technology, Yomi leaves the control to the surgeon and provides him or her the flexibility to change the plan.

“Robotic dentistry” looks promising especially with the advancements in technology in recent years. Artificial intelligence is already changing the platform of Dentistry with Invisalign and Yomi.

But, for now, Dentistry will have to depend on humans for its dental treatments and services.

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