By Faten Omar
KUWAIT: During the COVID-19 pandemic, technology played a pivotal role in transforming the dental industry, ensuring both patient care and practitioner safety, allowing dentists to assess and guide patients remotely, minimizing in-person visits for non-emergency cases. Kuwait Times spoke with Orthodontist Dr Mubarak Al-Saeed to learn more about how digital dentistry supports dental practices.
In the face of the pandemic, Dr Saeed, drawing on his expertise in digital dentistry, said adopting technology was a remarkable innovation to ensure continued care for patients. But operating in Jahra, a relatively remote area with a less tech-savvy population, the challenge was significant. However, a strategic decision was made to embrace virtual appointments, and this adaptation allowed him to reach and treat patients remotely, transcending geographical constraints and providing a vital solution during a time of restricted physical interactions.
“We started sending aligners directly to patients’ homes and recording and monitoring their progress effectively. In fact, during the pandemic, 461 patients benefited from this approach. And due to the success, I decided to keep offering it to patients long after the pandemic,” he noted.
“Currently, we are adopting a balanced approach, with roughly a 50/50 split between remote and in-person care. This has been a significant shift from our previous practice, where the majority of our care was in person. Our adoption of remote care, though initially prompted by the pandemic, has become an integral part of our practice. It has allowed us to continue delivering care effectively, offering convenience to patients and utilizing digital tools and AI to enhance the quality of care,” Dr Saeed said.
“The dental field in the Middle East has recently undergone a massive paradigm shift when it comes to the adoption of digital technologies. Today, you can see hints of digital technology everywhere. However, this was not always the case. Not too long ago, fixed appliances or analog dental practices were considered the gold standard in this region, and many professionals still heavily depend on them,” he pointed out.
Dr Saeed revealed that when digital dentistry and technology were first introduced, they were met with general skepticism. “3D imaging and scanning have greatly enhanced treatment precision. Digital tools like intraoral scanners have transformed the patient experience. The ability to visualize treatment outcomes using 3D models and simulations enhances patient education and decision-making.
These are only a few of the many other benefits offered by the technology,” he said. As for whether providing remote care has freed up more time, he said: “It is a bit of a double-edged sword. While remote care does offer flexibility and convenience, it also adds new processes and tasks, which can offset the time-saving aspect. Adopting digital dentistry without a doubt makes the practice more efficient by treating the same number of patients in less time, and it’s up to the clinician to enjoy the freed-up time or treat more patients.”
Dr Saeed revealed the dental industry in Kuwait has made it easier to adopt new technologies, saying that one of the technologies that satisfies patients is the face visualization tool, which shows the patients their smiles after they follow the treatment. “The whole process is digital from start to end, and we use high-level technologies and scanners during consultation to show the patients the result before they make a decision. AI, in particular, has become a valuable part of our toolkit, in addition to virtual care to monitor patients even after their treatment is done, just to get an insight on how long-lasting the effect is and whether anything changes in the next couple of years,” he explained.
In the field of orthodontics, Dr Saeed said that the speed of technological advancement continues to far outpace the rate of adoption in the field. It is essential to build a solid foundation with the fundamentals of orthodontics, as the basics are important. However, it’s equally vital to keep an open and inquisitive eye towards emerging innovations. You don’t want to find yourself lagging and hesitant to embrace new technologies or approaches, he cautioned.
Dr Saeed called other doctors to be willing to explore and learn about innovations, even if they challenge established practices, where those who stay receptive to change and innovation are more likely to thrive in this dynamic environment. “Embrace the opportunities that new technologies and methodologies offer, as they may hold the key to advancing both your career and the field as a whole,” he advised.