A look at the future of dental and medical health care and diagnostic technology

Richard H. Nagelberg, DDS, takes a look at some new dental and medical technology on and beyond the horizon that has the potential to positively affect health care and impact disease identification on a global level. He says these huge changes involve virtually every aspect of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases and conditions that have been around for ages.

A FEW DECADES AGO, WHEN COMPUTERS WERE LIMITED to large corporate, academic, and governmental institutions, the most forward-thinking individuals in the computer field could not remotely fathom how computers would be intertwined into virtually every aspect of daily life as they are today. An early paper on the impact of computers in the educational setting indicated that they may have an application in language learning. Even the biggest movers and shakers back then couldn’t envision the future.

It is unlikely today, too, that we can truly predict what the future will look like. There are so many disruptive technologies and ideas that are just beyond the horizon. Technologies such as stem cells for regeneration of oral tissues are well-known, as is salivary diagnostic technology. If we try to take a leap beyond the near term and envision dental and medical health care a little farther in the future, we will see phenomenal changes.

Plasma toothbrushes are under development. They will use pulsed atmospheric plasma to create ions and electrons that weaken and remove the bond between plaque and the tooth’s surface. Salivary biomarkers for dozens of diseases have already been identified. Lab-on-a-chip technology has also been developed. Several biomarkers are embedded in a cassette, a little bigger than a smartphone. There will come a time in our lifetimes in which we walk into a drugstore, select cassettes that contain the disease biomarkers we are interested in, put a few drops of saliva into the collection port in the cassette, and stick the cassette into an analyzer, which is a little larger than a toaster oven. In a matter of minutes, a report will appear on our smartphone, indicating whether or not we are at risk for the diseases identified by the cassette we selected.

Chewing gum that identifies the presence of inflammation by emitting a bitter flavor has passed proof of concept. It requires no learning curve, no special equipment, no expertise; just chew this gum for a few minutes to determine if you have peri-implantitis. When the sensory gum is expanded to include many more diseases, its ability to test entire populations could have an enormous impact on the identification of disease globally.

These are but a few of the large constellation of initiatives underway around the world. It is truly an exciting time in dental and medical health care. We are on the cusp of enormous changes involving virtually every aspect of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases and conditions that have been around for eons. How fortunate that we are here to witness and participate in these changes.


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Richard H. Nagelberg, DDSRichard H. Nagelberg, DDS, has practiced general dentistry in suburban Philadelphia for more than 30 years. He is a speaker, advisory board member, consultant, and key opinion leader for several dental companies and organizations. He lectures on a variety of topics centered on understanding the impact dental professionals have beyond the oral cavity. Contact Dr. Nagelberg at gr82th@aol.com.

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