The world’s first rudimentary dental robot has emerged from the fields of digital dentistry and robotics.

Digital dentistry is a modern field of dentistry that makes use of digital technology. Over the last 20 years, it has developed rapidly and will improve the quality, precision, efficiency, speed and costs of a lot of dental procedures today.

In time, digital dentistry will eventually render certain traditional dental methods and procedures obsolete, while creating innovations that will revolutionise modern dentistry as we know it.

One such innovation, on the horizon, is a Chinese made and developed dental robot.

On 29 April 2016, Peking University, China, published a scientific report to test, record and validate the accuracy of their new dental robotic device which can perform an automatic full crown tooth preparation.

(A full crown preparation normally involves a dental trimming process of the target tooth, to remove any decay, and to create a specific tapered shape that can receive the crown. Once the tooth is shaped, a dental impression is taken, which is used to create a plaster cast. A dental technician then uses the cast to fabricate a ceramic crown.)

The robotic device is loaded with heaps of features. It has an intraoral scanner, an ultra-short-pulse laser beam generator for hard tissue preparation, robotics and 3D motion control technology. To top it all, the nameless robot has an intraoral automatic laser-controlled micro-preparation unit so small, you won’t even notice, as it extends quietly into your mouth to start work – with its silent laser.

Those of us who might be wary of an automatic miniature laser gun in their mouth, close to their brain, need not worry. For safety, this Chinese robot positions the micro-preparation unit in the same coordinate system as your target tooth while protecting the soft and hard tissue surrounding the target area from injury and other emergency situations (like sneezing).

The timed results of the Chinese study said it all. Average preparation time for a full crown preparation was a very respectable 17 minutes. With a shape error range of 0.05-0.17 mm on its first documented run, the robot’s potential in the near future looks promising.

The Peking University researchers also plan to adapt their robot to perform other types of tooth restorations, such as inlays, veneers and partial crowns. The robot’s sensors will also receive an upgrade to improve accuracy and enable the detection of variations in tooth structure and composition.

Information and image source:  Yuan, F. et al. An automatic tooth preparation technique: A preliminary study. Sci. Rep. 6, 25281; doi: 10.1038/srep25281 (2016).