As we hurtle towards a future that has already made artificial intelligence a near certainty, how long will it be before your dentist is an actual robot?

With so many advancements in technology over the last 20 years or so, how long will it be before our fillings are done by independently intelligent robots? Science fiction is very quickly becoming science fact in a number of industries worldwide and with our continued ability to keep improving our technologies it really does beg the question of how far away we are from your dentist’s name being a series of letters and numbers. They have already been integrated into the medical field and every day that we collect data they are getting better and better at performing complex tasks.

Who is going to volunteer to be the first patient for a robot dentist then?

If you are a little skittish about being the first person to receive treatment from a robot dentist, you will be pleased to hear that someone has already taken up that mantle. In September 2017, a Chinese patient put his name forward to be the first recipient of robotic dental surgery as he received two 3D-printed dental implants. Naturally, the surgery was overseen by human beings, but they didn’t interfere in any way. The procedure was a total success and could not have gone more smoothly during the hour that it took to complete the treatment. This is not to say that we weren’t heavily involved in the preparation though and incredibly precise measurements were needed for the robot to accurately place the man’s dental implants.

Do we really need them?

With the rise of robots in industry and perhaps a little further down the line in society, there will no doubt be some pushback. But whether you are ‘for’ or ‘against’ the implementation of robots in our everyday lives, the benefits of being able to reproduce the skills possessed by dentists in areas where patients may struggle to find one, are invaluable. In countries where there are large expanses of rural land where patients need to travel long distances, a robot stationed nearer these patients would be able to perform complex procedures for those less fortunate. And while they may need someone who is qualified as a dentist to operate them right now, we may reach a point where we are able to imbue them with the knowledge to do so completely independently. While you may still be sceptical about the ability of a robot to perform these procedures, we should be careful not to imprint the nightmares of Hollywood movies onto our perception of something that could potentially be life-changing for patients all over the world. For now, though, you are stuck with our many years of experience and compassionate human touch.