Stem Cells and Wafer Thin 3D Printing: How Cosmetic Dentistry Will Rid Itself of Invasive Procedure | Hacker Noon

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@peter-jobesPeter Jobes

Peter Jobes is a tech & blockchain writer. Featured in VentureBeat.

Veneers have become one of the biggest crazes in cosmetic dentistry, with celebrity adopters inspiring many to take the procedure in the pursuit of the perfect smile. 

While there are plenty of approaches available for those looking to embrace veneers, including composites that require very little dental preparation, the installation of the much more robust, brighter, and longer-lasting porcelain veneers is not only an irreversible procedure due to the filing away of existing tooth enamel layers, but the costs associated with the procedure can range into the thousands of pounds per tooth. 

(Image: Raconteur)

The rise in popularity of veneers is expected to aid the cosmetic dentistry industry in achieving a global market value of £30 billion in the coming years. But for all the excitement veneers are attracting among consumers looking to improve the appearance of their teeth, is it worth embracing the treatment knowing that there’s no going back? 

Emerging technologies mean that the future’s bright for cosmetic dentistry and its practices, and given that the global market is set to double in size over a 10 year period, there will be plenty of reasons to be excited about how we can treat our teeth in the coming years. Let’s take a look at some of the hottest anticipated developments to look out for in the future of dentistry: 

Computer Aided Design Dentistry

One of the more exciting developments in dentistry is being driven by technology that can’t be considered new at all, in fact it’s been around since the 1980s. Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) has very few links to the world of dentistry but as 3D printing has become more advanced, there are some clear opportunities when it comes to dental restoration practices – including crowns, dental implants and more adaptive veneers. 

In CAD/CAM dentistry, restorations are designed on a computer screen by mapping out a patient’s mouth with an optical scanner. Today, machinery like the CEREC Omnicam 4.2 is capable of creating an exact digital replica of a mouth, all with natural colors accurately rendered without the need of foul-tasting coating that was formerly used to capture details of individual teeth. 

Digital impressions alleviate the need for impression materials to be placed in a patient’s mouth for longer passages of time. 

CAD software then creates accurate restorations and the use of 3D printers means that perfect fitting treatments can take place all within one session. As 3D printing technology continues to advance, the quality and durability of more composite and snap-on veneers will mean that more cost-effective and filing-free options will become more viable for users looking to improve the cosmetics of their smile. 

Likewise, the capabilities for treating chipped, cracked and stained teeth will become more comprehensive with these advancements.

Dental Regeneration

One very exciting and hotly anticipated area of development can be found in dental regeneration. Here, bioactive replacements for dental ailments have the potential to alter the way dentists approach issues with tooth decay and various other treatments as a whole. 

(Image: MarketsandMarkets)

There’s little doubting that stem cells have a huge role to play in the future of healthcare, and with the stem cell therapy market growth illustrating the huge investments that are occurring in the technology, it’s reasonable to expect more developments in the field as the decade progresses. 

Stem cells will form the cornerstone of regenerative medicine practices. The notion that we’ll soon be growing brand new teeth to replace damaged or decaying ones seems fanciful, but on-going research that aims to find a source of mesenchymal stem cells that can maintain tooth-forming ability is taking place. 

Elsewhere, scientists from Harvard and the University of Nottingham reportedly developed dental fillings that enable teeth to heal of their own accord. In the report, the filling works by stimulating stem cells to encourage the production of dentin, which is the bony material that makes up the majority of the tooth. If the technology to enable this can be adapted to more widespread usage, users could effectively repair damaged teeth. It could even spell the end of root canals. 

Dental regeneration may seem like a pipe dream, but developments in stem cell research mean that it could become a reality in the not-too-distant future. Possessing the ability to heal and grow healthy teeth could help to solve a series of existing dental problems, and may change the cosmetic dentistry landscape forever. 

More Powerful Budget Alternatives

Of course, it’s worth noting that as technology advances, so too does the power of less-invasive approaches to teeth whitening and treatments. 

Introduction of alternative products, like whitening strips, clear aligners and gels, represent the latest developments in a long line of advancing budget home-based technology that will only continue to build in power and quality. 

(Image showing most used tooth whiteners in the USA. Source: Statista)

Elsewhere, braces to fix crooked teeth are becoming increasingly discreet and clearer for users. It’s reasonable to expect existing products to become more efficient in doing the jobs that veneers do in a less invasive manner as whitening solutions become stronger and the treatments to help damaged teeth become more efficient. 

The most important thing for all patients when looking into dental procedures is to form a realistic understanding of how a treatment will play out, and what the expected results will be. Expensive cosmetic procedures can significantly brighten the look of your smile and successfully cover damaged or crooked teeth. But if you wanted different shades of color or a more comprehensive level of treatment, you could feel swindled by the fact that veneers only hide imperfections. 

Fundamentally, veneers can still offer great cosmetic improvements to your teeth, and they’ve represented a rewarding investment for many. However, it’s worth having a conversation with your dentist to explore your options and discuss which approach is better than you. Losing layers of protective tooth enamel in an irreversible procedure that could be more efficiently undertaken in five years’ time may seem too costly to some, but for others, it’s a price worth paying.

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Peter Jobes is a tech & blockchain writer. Featured in VentureBeat.

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