Dental Tribune Europe
Data software is the way of the future for maintaining an optimally running dental practice. (Photograph: Phovoir/Shutterstock )

“The future of dentistry will be driven by data”

By Aleksandra Nyholm, Planmeca
May 17, 2019

HELSINKI, Finland: Digital dentistry has been talked about as the future of the industry for nearly two decades, but as digital dental technology gradually shifts from new to normal in the dental clinic, where is dentistry heading next? The answer is likely to be found in one small four-letter word: data.

Digital dentistry has been the often-cited future of dentistry for well over a decade—and with good reason. New digital technologies have enabled same-day restorations of patient smiles, simplified workflows and patient communication and, indeed, transformed diagnostic and treatment practices in the dental office. However, as digital devices gradually become standard in the dental clinic, where is the industry heading next? What is the new future of dentistry?

Harnessing the Internet of Things in dentistry

In the last few years, the Internet of Things (IoT)—essentially, devices exchanging data via a network—has become something of a buzzword in dentistry as elsewhere. Behind the buzz lies a real industrial shift towards ecosystems of network-based digital devices working side by side, hand in hand—generating large amounts of data as they go.

Solutions that depend on manual data entry to collect information on treatment content and the time used have long existed in the dental industry. Until recent years, the activities and operations during treatment, such as chair times and equipment use, have remained largely unrecorded. In order to access and collect this data, it is important to choose technology that is ready to go online.

Planmeca equipment has long been designed with this in mind. Our digital dental units, imaging devices and milling units have included network connectivity for more than a decade, relaying data seamlessly to our powerful Planmeca Romexis software—all this well before IoT became a common talking point in the tech industry.

Valuable insights through data analytics

IoT-ready devices capable of producing and transmitting big data provide visibility into the treatment session. This visibility is essential to the evaluation of all aspects of a clinic. The sooner the right technology is brought into the practice, the more readily available data will become. However, in order to get the most out of this enormous amount of data, it must be collected into information in a way that is intelligent, centralised and automated.

The explosion of data in recent years has already led to data analytics becoming commonplace in fields such as marketing, modern education and business intelligence. In medicine, for example, operating room analytics enables monitoring of case and procedure volumes, operating room utilisation and scheduling efficiency. Dentistry is now also following suit. In 2017, Planmeca was the first manufacturer of dental equipment to launch a comprehensive IoT solution for dental clinics with Planmeca Romexis Insights.

Planmeca Romexis Insights is a web-based analytics service which combines data from Planmeca dental units, imaging devices and milling units to generate clear visualisations of equipment usage, device status and patient flows. From smaller clinics to larger clinic chains, the informative reports and interactive views enable identification of trends, patterns and areas of optimisation in order to maximise clinic efficiency. As the name suggests, it’s about gaining insights into how a dental practice is doing—anywhere, any time.

From digital dentistry to data-driven dentistry

There have been a number of innovations that have changed the course of dentistry. One major shift in the industry was the move towards digital dental technology, which led to the development of such concepts as same-day restorations and the paperless dental office. The emergence of analytics solutions for dental clinics is a clear sign that we are now in the middle of another shift, towards an era of data-driven dentistry.

Today, analytics services such as Planmeca Romexis Insights can produce comprehensive and relevant information about patient times, equipment usage and productivity, from the first appointment to the final check-up. Analytics helps make comparisons and pinpoint best practices both over time and across clinical procedures. This, in turn, can guide the entire dental team towards higher productivity, better outcomes and happier patients through continuous learning and self-improvement.

Tomorrow, we may see data analytics taken even further, for example, through highly personalised treatments informed by enormous amounts of consolidated patient, performance and quality assurance data. Combining data with artificial intelligence is likely to offer still more possibilities for the future—some of which are already being explored by the Planmeca R&D team.

What is the immediate future of dentistry? In such an ever-moving field, the possibilities are unlimited. If there is one thing that does seem clear, it is this: the future of dentistry will be driven by data.

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