Image of robot and text asking–

What Do a Dentist, An Architect and A Robot Have In Common
Courtesy of Craig Sommer DDS at www.springsdentist.com and https://www.flickr.com/photos/adopt-a-bot/

Biomimetic Secrets- Solutions to man’s most painful problems including teeth.

What is biomimetics? [Bio-life, mimetic-to imitate,—bio-mim-et-ics]  It’s the scientific study of nature and imitating it to solve human problems and it’s visible in areas as unrelated as architecture, robotics and your teeth.

How Does Biomimetics Help Your Smile?

Imagine your dentist not only trying to mimic nature by improving the appearance of your teeth and smile, but also by strengthening your teeth, increasing chewing effectiveness and extending their longevity. It’s a win-win-win.

Let me introduce you a couple of biomimetic explorations bringing us  breakthrough technologies from around the world.
An recent article in Nature Communication describe how barnacles, that are almost impossible to scrape off ship bottoms, hold the key to novel adhesives with potential uses in medicine and dentistry.

An article in Nature Magazine describes the use of a biomimetic design in architecture. An unconventional building, designed by Toyo Ito, built of glass and tubes of steel survived the magnitude-9.0 earthquake near Sendai Japan in 2011. It was one of few building left standing. It’s support columns were inspired by waving seaweed and tree branches.

An MIT Robotics laboratory demonstration shows an amazing biomimetic robot able run and leap over obstacles. The inspiration— the movement and musculature of the wild cheetah.

Mainstream Dentistry-Often Just A Fresh Coat Of Paint

A dentist, using biomimetic principles to restore your teeth, is making giant steps in the right direction for you, that you may not immediately appreciate. The principles promise fewer fractured teeth, fewer dental crowns and fewer teeth requiring root canal treatment or extraction. The problem is not all dentists think this way.

Few dentists think in terms of truly imitating nature as they restore teeth. The “cosmetic” dentist tries to make your teeth look good on the outside, but it’s often just a fresh coat of paint. Digging into how a dentist is influenced by biomimetic principles, reveals a totally different way of thinking.

It’s the thinking going on behind the curtain of your dentist’s smile that makes the real difference. Most dentists take the “toolbox” handed to them in dental school and run out the door with a grin on their face, waving their free hand in the air eager to open their own practice.

What’s In Your Dentist’s Toolbox?

The “toolbox” your dentist was given came with mercury fillings for small and medium sized cavities. For giant cavities he was given root canal treatment and screws to twist and posts to glue into your hollowed out teeth. These imperfect tools resulted in countless numbers of fractured teeth requiring numerous caps or crowns in an attempt to save them.

Many of these traditional techniques, still being taught today, had their origin in dental textbooks authored in the 1800’s. For example, the mercury based filling material known as amalgam or silver filling requires the grinding away of large amounts of good solid tooth structure. These fillings lock into place with a puzzle piece configuration, where the hole is larger underneath the surface than what is visible.

If You’ve Experienced This, I’m Sorry

Often these tools are pushed beyond their recommended limits, resulting in multiple mercury fillings being placed into the same tooth until it fractures irreparably. It’s an example where no thought was given to biomimicry. If you’ve experienced this, I’m sorry. It is not the best dentistry has to offer. Unfortunately, the costs associated with dental care sometimes require compromise, making it difficult for both you and your dentist.

A few dentists, lifted their heads right after dental school, and looked around adding newer and better “tools” to their “toolbox.” They recognized the limitations of their first “toolbox” and began the search for a better way. If you have one of these dentists, count yourself lucky.

Meet The Mentor

I encountered my mentor Dr. Ray Bertolotti DDS, a materials engineer-dentist on the staff of University of California at San Francisco Dental School in 1984.

Dr. Bertolotti is an out-of-the-box thinker who incorporated the principles of biomimetics and dentistry into his lectures and training. His friend and collegue, Dr. Takao Fusayama, a dentist researcher in Japan, was doing research to minimize the destructive nature of current dental techniques.

Fusayama advocated minimal drilling on teeth and reinforcing teeth with adhesive dental materials leading to fewer fractures, fewer crowns and fewer teeth requiring root canal treatment or extraction. He added groundbreaking new tools to the “toolboxes” of thinking dentists.

I was fortunate to have had this training firsthand from Dr. Bertolotti on numerous occasions. He called it adhesive dentistry. His focus of conservative, minimally invasive dentistry is paramount in my practice today.

The philosophy grew rapidly, with many proponents including Tim Rainey DDS, another advocate of minimally invasive dentistry extending the improvements even further.

Many dentists trained on the West coast used Dr. Bertolotti’s adhesive dentistry techniques extensively, but our ranks are slowly diminishing. Fortunately, a renewed effort is taking place to educate young dentists in the philosophy and techniques necessary to better imitate nature.

A New Standard Bearer

The approach to restoring teeth this way is not new, but it has recently been given a “new” name. It’s now called “Biomimetic Dentistry.” The name, coined by dentist Dr. David Alleman, DDS of South Jordan, Utah, is a logical extension of the thinking behind it going back to the 1970’s in Japan.

Dr. Alleman, in his patent pending courses, is updating the techniques espoused by Dr. Bertolotti and incorporating some of the newest and best materials on the market. He’s working to become the new standard bearer, for the benefit of dentists and patients alike. The principle benefit for you is a reduction in aggressive drilling on teeth in order to restore them.

That translates into fewer crowns and far fewer root canal treatments. It’s a boon to you. And it’s also very satisfying to your dentist who’s striving to provide services to you at the highest level.

Am I ready for a mechanical dental robot yet? Nope, there is still a long way to go before I let a present day robot in my mouth.
We do however, have “robots” carving crowns to precisely fit teeth, so who’s to say what the next step will be.

Call your holistic or biologic dentist today and find out what modern, biomimetic and minimally invasive dentistry options might be available for you.