World’s first autonomous robot Dentist implants two teeth into a patient

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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

  • Globally there’s a huge shortage of qualified dentists, but in the future that might not be a problem now that robots are on the case…


 

We’ve all volunteered for weird things in our lives, whether it’s something we want to do or not and the medical field is a great example of volunteering gone mad. After all, how else would we know that heart transplants really worked if there hadn’t been any volunteer Guinea Pigs? And in a world where we’re seeing more surgical robots entering the scene, from robots that can perform brain surgery, albeit in a test environment for now, fifty times faster than a human surgeon, to robots like STAR in the operating room it’s likely we’ll be needing a lot more brave volunteers.

 

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Earlier this week though a Chinese woman took another one for the team when she volunteered to have two 3D printed teeth implanted in her mouth by a robot dentist. Yes, you heard that right! 3D printed teeth, it’s almost as amazing as hearing the news that there’s a new biomaterial in town that can help us grow our teeth back. Oh yes, and the dentist was a robot. Yawn.

There’s a major shortage of dentists in China and about 400 million people are in need of dental implants but despite that each year only about a million people actually get them, so as a result it’s inevitable that some people turn to cowboy dentists, and, let’s face it, that’s never going to end well…

As a result it’s hoped that this first of a kind autonomous surgery, which took place last week, and that as far as anyone can tell is the first time a completely autonomous robot has performed dental surgery on a person, will help fill this shortage of qualified dentists, as well as cut back on problems caused by human error.

 

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Now, for most people it has to be said that going to the dentist in itself is a harrowing enough proposition, but being treated on by a completely autonomous robot dentist? Well, that’s just got to fuel some new kind of nightmares for you.

The robot dentist, which took four years to build and doesn’t have a name yet, was developed by the team at the Beihang University Institute of Robotics and the Fourth Military Medical University, was the brainchild of Dr. Zhao Yimin, a leading oral rehabilitation specialist who works with one of the hospitals who said “the robot combines dentists’ expertise and the benefits of technology.”

 

The Robo-Dentist in Full Swing

 

The surgery itself took place in Xian, Shaanxi, and while human medical staff were present throughout the entire procedure they didn’t take part in the operation, their role was to prep the patient and the robot for surgery, fit the robot’s position orientation equipment to the patient’s mouth, and program it to move to the right position for the surgery. They also determined the angle, depth, and precise movements that the robot would need to follow in order to fit the two 3D printed teeth inside a cavity in the patient’s mouth.

The team then tested the robot out before the actual surgery and collected data to make any necessary adjustments to it before the brave volunteer was given a local anaesthetic and the surgery began. In all the surgery took about an hour and the team reported the robot was able to make adjustments during the operation that were “in line with the patient’s own movements.”

 

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Afterwards experts said the implants reached the required standard for the type of operation, fitting to within a margin of error of 0.2 to 0.3 mm, and if you’re interested in seeing the robot in action, and if you can bear it, then you can take a peek at the video above. You’re so brave. And as for the upsides of this technology of nightmares? Well, it’s not just China who are short of dentists, it’s many of the countries around the world, including the UK, so who knows, in the next ten years one might be coming to your neighbourhood.

Now sit back and say “ARGH!”

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, Futurist and Founder of the 311 Institute is described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers.” Among other things Matthew keeps busy helping the world’s largest smartphone manufacturers ideate the next five generations of smartphones, and what comes beyond, the world’s largest chip makers envision the next twenty years of intelligent machines, and is helping Europe’s largest energy companies re-invent energy generation, transmission and retail.

Recognised in 2013, 2015 and 2016 as one of Europe’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an award winning author, entrepreneur and international speaker who has been featured on the BBC, Discovery and other outlets. Working hand in hand with accelerators, investors, governments, multi-nationals and regulators around the world Matthew helps them envision the future and helps them transform their industries, products and go to market strategies, and shows them how the combination of new, democratised, powerful emerging technologies are helping accelerate cultural, industrial and societal change.

Matthew’s clients include Accenture, Bain & Co, Bank of America, Blackrock, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting Group, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deutsche Bank, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, Du Pont, E&Y, Fidelity, Goldman Sachs, HPE, Huawei, JP Morgan Chase, KPMG, Lloyds Banking Group, McKinsey & Co, PWC, Qualcomm, Rolls Royce, SAP, Samsung, Schroeder’s, Sequoia Capital, Sopra Steria, UBS, the UK’s HM Treasury, the USAF and many others.

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