Robot Dentist Successfully Performs an Operation Without Human Interference

Fagjun | Published 2017-09-27 19:57

A robot dentist was able to perform implant surgery on an actual human patient with nothing but supervision from human doctors.


Photo by the Air Force Medical University



Going to the dentist isn't always a pleasant experience. How would you feel, however, if instead of a human dentist, you get a robot one instead? On September 23, 2017, the robot successfully installed two 3D-printed dental implants for a woman in the city of Xi'an in China. Human dentists were supervising the robot, but they did not have to step in to assist the robot at all. Beihang University and the Fourth Military Medical University’s Stomatological Hospital developed the robot, which was reportedly created to avoid human errors in dental procedures.


Dr Zhao Yimin, a leading oral rehabilitation specialist in China, claims that the robot is a combination of the best of technology and a dentist's expertise. Though this is the first actual procedure that the robot completed by itself, it's certainly off to a good start.



Say “Ahhhhhhh”


Photo by the Air Force Medical University



The South China Morning Post reports that the robot dentist came with a set of pre-programmed commands that guided its installation of the implants. The installation of the implants had a 0.2 to 0.3 millimeter margin of error, which is the standard margin of error for implants. Even as the patient moved, the robot was able to make adjustments to its movements to match those of the patient.


It took Beihang University and Stomatological Hospital four years to develop the robot into what it is now. The development of the robot, fortunately, could not come at a better time. China has a shortage of qualified dentists. According to the South China Morning Post report, 400 million people in China are in need of dental implants. However, only about a million of these are performed each year. There aren't enough qualified dentists who can perform the procedure, and people are also at risk of undergoing poor surgery with unqualified dentists. Dentists also have the problem of having to work within the very small space inside the human mouth.


Using robots, which can avoid human error in the surgery, can address this problem. The robot can also conduct surgeries with more accuracy in a narrow and confined space like the oral cavity.



Our Future With the Robot Dentist


Photo via South China Morning Post



It only took an hour for the robot to install the two implants. Prior to the surgery, human dentists prepped the robot by programming it to move into the correct position and to make the correct decisions that will make the surgery a success. The team looked over the program once again to iron out any kinks and to make sure that everything will go as smoothly as possible. During the course of the surgery, the robot was able to prove that it was able to adjust to the patient's natural movements.


It seems that we'll be seeing more of this robot dentist in dental offices and clinics sooner rather than later. In fact, robots have already been present in dental clinics, though not in a surgical capacity. It's likely that we may be seeing more of these robots as our dentists in the future.

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