Whether you’re habitually eager to embrace change or more fearful of new technology, it’s fair to say that augmented reality (AR) is here to stay.
While early major breakthroughs for reality technology have been primarily felt in the world of gaming and retail, it’s becoming increasingly clear that AR has plenty to offer in a wide range of industries.
As the chart above illustrates, one of the most significant areas that both augmented and virtual reality is ripe to improve can be found in healthcare.
With reality technology in healthcare expected to develop into a $5.1bn dollar industry by 2025, it’s worth taking a moment to understand the ramifications such developments will have in the world of dentistry.
We may have become accustomed to using AR to virtually place new furniture inside our homes or to catch digital monsters on the way to work, but how could it help out dentists and their patients?
Let’s take a deeper look at the role augmented reality will soon play in improving the dental industry and how it can help patients to maintain healthy and white teeth:
Applying Augmented Reality to Dentistry
Before we take a look at the application of augmented reality within dentistry, it’s worth clarifying exactly what AR is.
Augmented reality works by imposing digital layers on top of real-world environments. Unlike with its technological sibling, virtual reality, AR’s use of real-life as a backdrop means that it’s possible to utilise with smartphones, tablets and just about any device with a camera - as opposed to all-encompassing headsets.
Because digital layers can be added to a user’s field of view, it means that valuable data and visualisations can be imposed to help users to make informed decisions and provide detailed insights to patients, clients and customers.
When it comes to dentistry, augmented reality can work wonders in aiding patients both cosmetically and ensuring teeth remain healthy. This can be achieved through digital modelling and superior levels of guidance for dentists that the technology can provide.
The immersive nature of AR applications can not only benefit dentists but also patients, with a greater level of enjoyable education for kids and the power of reality technology helping to show users the consequences of their options when it comes to treatments or procedures.
Applied Dental Imagery
One of the most effective uses of AR within the field of dentistry can be found in dental imaging. By combining AR-enabled cameras with AI, it’s possible for patients to gain unprecedented insights into the effects of potential procedures and surgeries to enhance the appearance of their teeth.
One product that’s already on the market comes in the form of IvoSmile, which exists as an app that accurately renders what a patient’s mouth will look like following certain dental procedures.
One of the biggest challenges in dentistry is centred around the level of trust between dentists and patients that their recommended treatments are going to produce the desired results. Oftentimes, determining what a successful procedure looks like can be subjective, and patients may dislike their chosen tooth whitening products or straightening procedure.
However, IvoSmile can use a tablet camera to capture a patient’s face and show accurate renderings of the results of each potential procedure to take - offering greater clarity.
With the help of AR, it’s possible to compare and contrast popular whitening methods to users - whether it’s displaying the after-effects of using Crest Whitening Strips for instance, or activated charcoal solutions, or even installing veneers.
By utilising apps like IvoSmile, it’s possible for dentists to create better levels of collaboration between a practice and a lab. This is because it’s much simpler for both dentists and technicians to gain an idea of a desired outcome for the patient - helping to pave the way for greater levels of accuracy across the industry.
Immersive Training & Education
Another excellent use of augmented reality within dentistry can be found when AR is blended with educational apps.
Educational AR has multiple uses and can aid both dental training and the teaching of kids the importance of keeping their teeth clean.
AugmentedReality.Health has already created a concept in which student dentists can get to grips with practical scenarios by utilising augmented reality. Here, students use physical models of teeth and equipment and practice on their models by viewing them through a smartphone or tablet camera.
By utilising a dedicated AR app, complex dental scenarios can be simulated and superimposed onto teeth models to provide a level of training for students that would rarely be possible in any other training environment. Anything from cavities to gingivitis and receding gums can be imposed on the model, and the dental student will need to identify and act on the issue - thus gaining relevant practical experience.
Augmented reality can help the lives of younger patients too, with fun and immersive AR dental apps aimed at encouraging children to brush their teeth as if it were a game.
Because of how personable AR can make the development of mobile applications, it may soon be possible to incentivise the act of brushing teeth for youngsters - in a similar way to how apps like Sweatcoin provide adults with their own virtual currency to spend in a built-in store.
The Future of AR Dentistry
Logically, dentistry is an industry that grows in line with population growth, but recent years have seen increasing levels of interest among adults towards ensuring that their teeth appear whiter and less-crooked.
(Image: Global Market Research Insights)
According to the figures above, cosmetic dentistry is set to attain a value of almost $30bn in the coming years, and with higher levels of interest comes greater opportunities for augmented reality’s implementation.
By helping customers to effectively visualise their procedures in real-time, patients can make informed decisions based on the results that they’re aiming for. This can help to create more customer satisfaction within the industry while the use of AR-based training applications will help to create more knowledgeable and skilful practitioners.
When we think of augmented reality, our first thoughts may well be based in the realms of gaming and retail, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that dentistry will be one of the many industries that will be heavily influenced by the emerging technology.