For the first time, a robot was capable of performing a dentistry operation on a person without the input of any medical personnel. The automated procedure took place in Xian in northwest China, where two 3D-printed teeth were implanted into a woman’s mouth.
As reported in the South China Morning Post, the medical operation was overseen by trained professionals, but they did not intervene. The teeth were placed with a margin of error of 0.2-0.3 millimeters, which is the required standard for this kind of operation.
Developing the system took four years, and it’s the joint work of the Fourth Military Medical University and the Robot Institute at Beihang University in Beijing. Dr Zhao Yimin, one of the leading oral rehabilitation specialists in China, stated that the robot combined a dentist's expertise with the benefit of technology.
Prior to the operation, the robot was programmed to move into the right position and decide the movements necessary to perform a successful operation. The steps were then reviewed by the team and tweaked to avoid any potential dangers. They then administered a local anesthetic to the patient and let the robot go to work.
According to a survey, 400 million people need new teeth in China, but currently only 1 million of such operations are performed every year. China is experiencing a severe shortage of qualified dentists and this tech could help solve the problem, as well as reduce the number of surgical errors that might happen in this type of procedure. The AI was not only capable of implanting the teeth, it was also able to respond to the patient's natural movements and adjust its position accordingly.
Robot surgeries, or at least robot-assisted surgeries, are believed to be the next step forward in improving patient safety and procedure outcomes. Just a few months ago, the US Food and Drug Administration approved of a robot assistant for dentists. The tech, called Yomi, is not autonomous, but it monitors both the patient and the dentist's movements to guarantee precision and control.
It might still take years before such robots are the standard approach, but as both technology and software develop, they will become more and more common.