A robot in China carried out the first autonomous dental implant surgery, fitting two 3D-printed teeth into a woman’s mouth.
Medical staff were on hand during the procedure and were responsible for fitting orientation equipment to the patient; programming the robot’s position, movements, angle and depth necessary to insert the teeth and administering a local anesthetic.
During the hour operation, the robot was able to fit the implants within the required standard for margin of error and make adjustments according to the patient’s movements.
Designed by researchers at the Fourth Military Medical University’s Affiliated Stomatology Hospital in Xi’an, China and the robot institute at Beihang University in Beijing, the robot aims to avoid human surgical errors and address the country’s shortage of qualified dentists.
Currently, about 400 million patients in China need new teeth, according to the country’s epidemic survey, but many can’t get the help needed because of the shortage of dentists. While about one million implants are performed in China each year, delays patients experience in receiving surgery can cause them to suffer further complications.
In addition, surgical errors are common because the mouth’s small space makes the surgery difficult to perform. Robots conducting implant surgery could help tackle both these challenges.
Robots have already been used to help with other dental procedures such as root canal surgeries and orthodontic operations. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration approved a robot that assists surgeons with implant fitting.