Robot dentistry: Mines students are developing a prototype

Team of Mines students create prototype for robotic dentistry.
Team of Mines students create prototype for robotic dentistry.(School of Mines)
Published: Apr. 11, 2023 at 1:55 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Robotic surgery has been an important tool in medicine for a number of years, but in dentistry, robots have not yet seen widespread use. One team of biomedical engineering students at South Dakota Mines is taking the first steps to change this fact.

The team has been collaborating with a local dentist for the past year to create the first prototype for remote robotic dentistry. This sort of device could enable a dentist to remotely oversee the work using the robotic extension, such as filling a cavity.

“We’re trying to automate the drilling of cavities,” says Logan Jundt, a senior biomedical engineering major who will graduate in May. “The end goal is to have a 3D printed filling ready to be inserted into a predetermined cutting pathway.”

The team believes this process could save the patient and the dentist time.

“I think the benefit is the filling is already created prior to the drilling because of the predetermined cutting path, so the patient does not have to wait for a filling to be printed. With this, all the planning is done ahead of time under the oversight of the dentist; the final procedure is automated and does not take that long,” says Jillian Linder, a senior biomedical engineering major who will graduate in May.

The final product of this kind might be beneficial to both patients and dentists, but team members are aware that building a dental robot is a difficult task. They hope that in the years of product development ahead, their prototype will only be one of many. Team members also point out that Food and Drug Administration approval for new biomedical devices can take decades. They recognize their prototype is just an initial step in a device that could take many years to implement. At the same time, they have enjoyed the challenges of this project.