dental engineering is an area of engineering that addresses the design, manufacture and maintenance of dental equipment and appliances. This includes electrical, mechanical and pneumatic parts that are critical to the function of a dental practice. During routine servicing or due to wear and tear, these parts may need to be replaced or repaired. For example, a faulty x-ray machine can lead to a delay in diagnosis or treatment. In addition, the safety of patients and dental professionals is at stake. Therefore, the ability to troubleshoot and quickly identify faults is key.
To address these challenges, CiPD and Columbia Engineering have established the first dual degree program in dentistry and engineering. The Doctor of Dental Surgery/Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Engineering (DDS/PhD) program will prepare students to work at the intersection of engineering and dentistry. The first cohort will begin the program in 2023.
In the clinic, CAD/CAM technology is used to digitally create and manufacture dental appliances. This software allows specialists to design restorations like crowns, bridges and dentures based on a digital impression. Digital tools can reduce the time required to make a restoration by automating many of the manual steps, leaving only the finishing touch to be performed by a human expert.
Other projects at the intersection of dentistry and engineering include biomaterials for dental implant restorations, the characterization of dental tissues to inform tissue regeneration strategies, and the development of new diagnostic tools for oral-craniofacial health. These projects are leveraging emerging technologies, from chloroplast engineering to nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, to help solve problems at the frontier of clinical medicine and public health.