Eastman Dental Institute


Digital dentistry bandwagon and the dental profession

20 March 2017

Digital dentistry

by Dr. Haralampos (Lambis) Petridis, Senior Lecturer, EDI

Digital technology is changing many aspects of our personal and professional lives.  Dentistry could not be excluded from this disruption.  New digital workflows have been introduced in dentistry, especially related to dental implants and prosthodontics (crowns, bridges, and removable dentures). Computer-assisted design and computer-assisted manufacturing (CAD/CAM) seems to be the way forward.

Numerous commercial manufacturers produce a number of software and hardware with constant upgrades and improvements.  At the same time professionals are urged to jump onto the fast-moving train or risk staying behind the curve.  Researchers and academics are trying to keep up with the pace of developments but, unfortunately, the frequency of changes and introduction of new products does not permit long-term scrutiny.  Marketing, therefore, is a very strong element in decision-making of dentists and dental professionals.

Despite the exponential developments in digital dental technology, there was no independent information on the use of this technology and the potential barriers for dentists in the UK or elsewhere in the world.  We recently published the first University-based survey of this kind in a peer-reviewed journal*.

The results of this survey were quite interesting as the UK dentists indicated that most did not use any digital aspects of workflows, mainly due to financial reasons.  High initial costs, coupled with issues relating to maintenance, constant outdating of technology, and lack of perceived benefit over conventional methods were significant barriers identified.  Another significant finding was that companies have taken over training of dentists and this has led many to feel inadequately trained.

The adoption of CAD/CAM technology has also led to clinical decision making changes such as, the use of different dental materials, leading to an increase of the use of zirconia and a decrease of the use of noble alloys.

This information is important to all stakeholders (manufacturers, dentists, and universities) and can help shape future strategies.  More research is currently being done at UCL Eastman Dental Institute in the fields of digital dental technology, in order to provide meaningful answers to the profession.  Stay tuned!

* Tran et al. Survey of UK dentists regarding the use of CAD/CAM technology. Br Dent J 2016; 221;10:639-644