A Voice in the Arena: The Person Behind the Machine by Dr. Chad Foster

A Voice in the Arena: The Person Behind the Machine   

Even with all of the recent technological advances, great orthodontic care will always be the result of the doctors themselves

by Chad Foster, DDS, MS, editorial director

A Voice in the Arena: The Person Behind the Machine In June, I was fortunate to visit the 3Shape headquarters in Copenhagen. (I have no financial interest with 3Shape of any kind.) 3Shape has long been a leader in digital dentistry, and its Trios scanners are still considered by many to be the gold standard in what is now a very diverse and competitive field. If you ever find yourself considering a visit to Northern Europe, I would highly recommend reaching out to set up a tour of the facility.

On my tour, I was hosted by one of the company’s senior developers and the head of its orthodontic division. I was treated to a history of technological advancements in 3Shape’s “museum” of old scanners, which highlighted the evolution of intraoral scanning, toured the company’s extensive international teaching facility and along the way got to have some great discussions about the future of where dentistry and orthodontics is headed. This included thoughts on the practical applications of artificial intelligence and an expanded role for dentofacial imaging as it relates to diagnosis and treatment planning of facial and smile aesthetics.  

It all depends on you

I will admit that at times the discussion went above my head—these guys are smart!—but I did find one constant theme of particular interest. As we moved from one topic to the next, the common thread was always the “person behind the machine”—specifically, the doctor operating the high-powered technology. The point repeated was that the efficiency, accuracy and scope of application of 3Shape’s technology is completely dependent on the skill and knowledge of the operator, which obviously varies tremendously from one doctor to the next. It was my tour leaders’ strong opinion that dentists and orthodontists will never be replaced by AI; rather, those who are willing to continually update their learning and practices with the most effective technology as it evolves will always maintain the primary position in patient care.

It’s certainly a unique position we orthodontists find ourselves in today! In our specialty, technology continues to evolve at a seemingly faster rate than ever, thanks in large part to great companies like 3Shape. What also moves at an equally fast pace—often faster, and more aggressively—is the targeted manufacturing and projection of fear of missing out, courtesy of some of the motivated tech companies.

Some of the technology is the real McCoy and represents an immediate disruption for the benefit of delivering the highest-quality patient care. However, much of it is often not exactly as advertised. After all, in the world of private-equity funding, who gives a damn about accuracy? Let’s get that “clinical trial” report out ASAP to support our claims, which are miles ahead of us. We have an earnings report to meet!

All jokes aside, it is of course not the companies that have a higher ethical obligation to the best patient care—it’s the doctors. The key is always keeping that healthy and necessary skepticism in mind. The challenge is being wise enough to be open-minded to the technology affecting our specialty as it evolves, while also not letting the manufactured FOMO dictate what we choose to hitch our wagons to in regard to practice and life decisions.

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