Changing towards the digital era is an irreversible global trend. With technology developing at a fast pace, digital dentistry will only become more efficient and user-friendly, allowing dentist to work in even smarter ways than before. However, the future always brings new challenges.
The digital development in dentistry brings the need for an entirely new set of skills for dental treatments. It is now a matter of digital handicraft skills to achieve the dental restoration. Consequently, dental education schools and programs will have to increase their focus on how to master digital equipment such as CAD/CAM technologies to educate students in clinical settings.
As digital technology and using an open digital workflow are coming into broader use, there will be an increased need for a wider range of dental materials on the market; fabrics, surfaces and colours as well as multi-layer materials. More research on the clinical behaviour, applications and biomechanical characterization of new dental materials will be necessary for dental professionals to increase their knowledge and application techniques.
The dental industry is undergoing a shift in who is carrying out what procedure in the dental workflow. Now that the digital equipment such as scanners, computer software, and milling machines have entered the labs, the line between labs and milling centres is starting to fade. Also, some clinics have the digital equipment to design and mill prosthetic restorations in their office (in simpler cases such as the production of temporary restorations or single crowns). This allows the dentists to provide dental restorations to patients directly, without any help from a lab or milling centre. This will ultimately increase competition and put higher demand on dental professionals to operate as one unit offering full-in-office services.
With the goal set on increased efficiency, cost reduction, and higher patient satisfaction, dental professionals now focus on implementing modern IT solutions in their everyday practice. The technology of CAD/CAM software already enables for excellent communication between dentists, technicians, and patients. But as digital dentistry is overshadowing the conventional techniques, it will become even easier to communicate in the future; for example by uploading and sharing files, providing educational counselling and treatment plan options, and guiding patients through complex procedures using smartphone apps.
As technology is moving forward, so will the rules and regulations for digital dentistry. The approval process for producing dental components as well as using the digital equipment will most likely become stricter with time. This is a positive development as dental companies will have to produce validated products and use validated work process leading to increased patient safety. However, it also means manufacturers and practitioners will need to prepare for inspections from authorities and notified bodies that will approach the dental industry through an increased number of inspections in the future.