This past month I attended the annual meeting for all the brightest new dental students across the country (ASDA). This experience was powerful for a few reasons, one being that the dental field is in good hands with a strong and intelligent group of young people coming into dentistry and the general nature of inquiry within the group. As a past inventor, I am always intrigued when asked “What’s the next big thing?” So when I was talking with one student about CEREC technology, which was the big hit of all the students, she asked that question. Let me also paint the picture of the other things that go on at this meeting from the students. They present scientific boards that depict studies that they are conducting. These studies seem to all be done in hope of explaining different health issues related to the oral environment, which gets me back to the question I was asked by this student. What’s the next big thing? I was not sure if my answer should be something that would stretch her norm beyond what was being taught or to throw a small nugget about new materials that would be coming out to restore teeth.
Since I do not have the pleasure of speaking to this type of inquiry often, I decided on something that may bring this student back to this event next year with a scientific board that would not only improve the health of the patient but drive interest in dentistry from broad circles.
I started my response to her question with: “How abstract would you like to go on the ‘new’?” The look told me to lay it out there. So my response was … intelligent teeth! She was not in any way surprised by my statement but asked how, why, etc., to rationalize the thoughts going through her head. I have to say that conversation charged up my old inventing past working with dentists who like to tinker as inventors. Let me throw out a few of the items we discussed and then I would like to invite those
who see the opportunity to “intelli-gize” the oral environment to submit your vision. Keep in mind that this is just an exercise in conception and all ideas are considered for the purpose of generating great conversation. A sort of “What would you see in the future as an ‘intelligence’ in a tooth that would benefit dentistry?”
To get the conversation started, one has to ask the question “Why?” The important aspect of teeth, as lay people are aware, is chewing our food. Some of the things people in the profession of oral health are knowledgeable about besides the health of the mouth are the form and function of the teeth in each patient. What is not discussed often is what else we can do in the oral environment to improve the health of the overall
patient once we have restored the health of the oral environment, form, function and esthetic aspects. The next wave in dentistry, or should I say health, will be creating virtual intelligence to capture real-time health of the patient using teeth as the harbor of the technology. I will paint a few of the pictures I discussed with one of the students and then encourage you to continue the possibilities.
Imagine the ability to analyze the saliva for pH levels or even glucose. How would that help people with their daily struggles to stay healthy? What if these sensory teeth could communicate to their smart phone and then to their doctor? This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using an environment that could someday be the database for your health.
Please submit your concepts by continuing this blog for all to see – and to those students at the ASDA meeting, think “the next big thing.”