The Latest in Dental Robotics

  • by Carrie Pallardy
  • Apr 17, 2023
Technology has repeatedly emerged and changed the way dentistry is performed. Advances in digital imaging, the advent of 3D printing, new restorative materials and more have given dentists the power to do better. Now, robotics promises to be the next frontier in dental technology. 

Robotics are not new to the world of medicine. In the 1980s, NASA created a remote-controlled robotic surgical system.1 The da Vinci Surgical System for performing laparoscopic surgery, developed by manufacturer Intuitive Surgical, earned its initial Food and Drug Administration approval in 2000.2 Since then, the surgical system has been used in more than 10 million procedures.3 

The potential applications of robotics in dentistry are myriad. Human-operated robotics are already blazing a new path in implant surgery. Microrobots show promise in endodontics. The idea of autonomous robotic technology holds the promise of reshaping dental workflows. In each of its various incarnations, robotic technology has the potential to deliver superior precision, reduce or eliminate human error, and improve patient outcomes. 

But it takes time for new technologies to become the standard of care in dentistry. How are robotics being used in the field today, and how could this technology shape the future of dental care?

Applications for Robotics in Dentistry 

The Yomi Dental Robot, developed by manufacturer Neocis, is front and center in the dental robotics conversation. The FDA cleared the robotic guidance system for dental implant procedures in 2016, according to Alon Mozes, CEO and co-founder of Neocis. In 2020, the FDA cleared the system for the additional indication of full-arch implant treatment.4 Two years later, the Yomi robot received FDA clearance for bone reduction.5 It remains the only FDA-cleared robotic surgery platform specific to dentistry. 

Unsurprisingly, developing this kind of technology takes time. “The process started around 2014 with the 510(k) submission [also known as premarket notification] of the Yomi system. It required a clinical study and several years of development, not only with the technology but with the clinical training as well,” Mozes explained. 

The Yomi system pairs software with a robotic arm and drill. Users are able to use the system for preoperative planning and guidance during implant procedures, ensuring the correct position, angulation and depth for minimally invasive implant placement. The Yomi system is currently being used in many practices across the United States. 

Robotics also has applications in the field of maxillofacial and oral surgery. The da Vinci Surgical System has been FDA-approved for maxillofacial surgery since 2009.

Yomi and da Vinci are large surgical platforms that draw immediate attention, but robotics in dentistry is also moving forward on a much smaller scale. Microrobots are showing promise in endodontics. Penn Dental Medicine researchers conducted a study that demonstrated the ability of microrobots to access areas of the root canal, opening the door to more precise treatment.7 The microrobots are created with iron oxide nanoparticles that can be controlled via magnetics.7 

Microrobots could also assist dentists by providing precise cleaning and drilling during endodontic procedures.8 On an even more minute scale, researchers are exploring ways to put nanorobots to work across multiple dental specialties.8 

Barriers to Entry 

Technology always has early adopters, but dentistry as a field tends to be slower to adopt new technology. The use of robotics is already more widespread in medicine, where it is being used to assist in a wide array of surgical specialties: bariatrics, gynecology, orthopedics and more.9 

The reluctance to adopt new technology could be due to the barriers to entry — both the upfront cost and the time it takes to learn how to use it. Dentists who are interested in becoming early adopters are faced with weighing the benefits against the risks. 

“As with any new technology, early adopters face decisions on resources related to cost, personnel, physical space and the learning curve. If these can be carefully managed, the benefits primarily in patient care outcomes and student education quickly remove barriers,” said Robert S. Glickman, DMD, associate dean for clinical affairs and hospital relations and professor and chair of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry. 

Cost and Return on Investment 

Adopting robotic technology is an exciting prospect, but it is not without its challenges. First, dental practices must consider the cost. The price of the Yomi system varies depending on how the practice plans to use it. A practice that focuses on single implants, instead of full-arch rehabilitation, could purchase Yomi with only the single-implant module. 

Bruce A. Smoler, DDS, FAGD, of Smoler Smiles in Westland, Michigan, purchased the Yomi system for approximately $175,000, signing the purchase order in May 2020. His practice — the first in Michigan to buy the Yomi system — opted for the robot’s full-arch capabilities. The full-arch software adds functionality in addition to the single-implant capabilities. Pricing for Yomi has since updated, and, starting in the first quarter of 2023, it will be available through a monthly subscription program. 

Making an investment in a large capital piece of equipment necessitates a careful decision-making process. Does the practice have the patient base to drive a return on investment? For practices that do not perform a significant number of implant cases, investing in Yomi may not be the best business decision. 

Geoffrey M. Schreiber, DDS, a partner at Eastern Virginia Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia, has been using Yomi at his practice for more than two years. His practice does at least one implant case per day. It has attracted patients who are interested in having robotic implant placements. 

For Smoler, the investment has established his practice as a trendsetter. “As an early adopter, you become known in the community as a very technologically advanced dental practice,” he said. 

The Learning Curve 

Practices also need to consider the learning curve — for the dentist and for staff — as another hurdle that comes with the adoption of new technology. 

Neocis works with dental practices to help them get up to speed on the technology. “We train the dentists and their staff, including assistants and implant coordinators in the practice, over the course of two days. We’ll then support them for their post-training cases to ensure they are comfortable with the system. Typically, the practice is fluent within 20 to 30 cases, which is a few weeks of use,” said Mozes. 

Schreiber noted that the most difficult part of the learning curve can be communicating with staff members. The dentist placing the implants with the Yomi robot needs to coordinate with trusted team members to complete a case. 

Initially, Schreiber and his team might have completed a case in 90 minutes. Now that they have worked together on many cases, the process has become much more efficient. “It actually takes me less than 10 minutes to place the implants now, whereas we used to be stopping all the time, checking angulation, taking periapical radiographs and doing everything to try to make sure everything’s going right,” he said. As dental teams learn to use the system, their comfort level grows with knowledge. 

Whether it makes sense for a practice to become an early adopter of robotic technology depends on a number of factors. Thus far, more than 120 dental practices in the United States are using the Yomi system, according to Mozes, and, in total, they have placed more than 23,000 implants. 

Robots in Dental Education 

If robotics is the future of dentistry, the technology undoubtedly will affect the way new generations of dentists are educated. Already, robotics is making inroads at dental schools. In 2019, the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine became the first U.S. dental school to acquire the Yomi system.10 The school’s predoctoral students and postdoctoral residents are able to learn how to use the technology. 

In 2022, students at the NYU College of Dentistry became the first in the United States to perform a student-led implant surgery using the Yomi system.11 Three third-year dental students performed the procedure under the supervision of Huzefa Talib, BDS, MFDRCS, FFDRCSI (OSOM), DICOI, clinical associate professor and clinical director in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the NYU College of Dentistry. 

Thomas Wiedemann, MD, DDS, PhD, clinical associate professor in the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the NYU College of Dentistry, helped to prepare the students for this unique educational and clinical experience. “The students took time before the surgery to identify key anatomic landmarks, angulation and depth of the proposed implant. Throughout surgery, the traditional steps of implant workflow were adhered to,” he said. 

The NYU College of Dentistry plans to continue providing students with exposure to robotic technology. “NYU Dentistry is excited to lead the process of incorporating robotic-assisted implant dentistry into the formal predoctoral DDS curriculum with the creation of a virtual surgical classroom that provides a strong foundation in surgical principles related to implant dentistry, surgical design and wound healing as well as the use of robotic-assisted technology,” said Glickman. 

Talib pointed out that dental students are prepared to begin learning how to use robotic technology in dentistry due to the prevalence of haptic technology in our daily lives. “Our students today are naturally acquainted with haptic technology. Everything you do provides some form of haptic feedback, be it your cellphone, tablet or the cars we drive, where the steering wheel vibrates if you drift from your lane. Robotics are similar to this, and adoption of this technology comes naturally to the 21st-century student,” he said. 

Wiedemann outlined the NYU College of Dentistry’s plans for continued incorporation of robotics. “The goal is for the class of 2025 to have access to a brandnew set of learning modules and in-person simulation experiences that are included in their curriculum by their second year. These lectures and assessments are designed to promote a strong foundation in surgical principles related to implant dentistry and the use of robotic-assisted technology,” he explained. 

The Yomi system isn’t the only way robotics is influencing dental education. Robotic patients offer students valuable simulated learning experiences before interacting with and treating live patients.1 Research has compared the use of robotic full-body patient-simulated systems and traditional manikins in dental clinical education.12 Unlike traditional manikins, robotic patients are able to mimic behaviors, like unexpected movement, that dental students can expect to encounter when working with real patients.13 

Dental students are likely to find robotics — both surgical platforms and in the realm of simulated training — increasingly introduced into their educational experiences. This technology provides the opportunity to begin learning a wider variety of complex procedures that have traditionally been the domain of experienced specialists, according to Talib. It also makes the learning experience safer. 

“Robotics are already used in many medical areas that require precision and safety, and these outcomes continue to be validated. Dentistry is no different, and the critical need to educate students and provide the best outcomes is already the standard of care,” said Glickman. 

The Future of Dental Robotics 

The Yomi system dominates much of the dental robotics conversation because it is the only FDA-cleared robotic surgical platform specific to dentistry. Since its release, the platform has pursued and received more FDA clearances. It will likely continue to offer its users more capabilities. “Going forward, we continue to enhance Yomi to deliver a complete end-to-end digital dental workflow, from preoperative planning to intraoperative surgery to postoperative restoration,” said Mozes. 

But the Yomi system won’t always be the only option for dentists looking to adopt robotic surgical technology. “When any groundbreaking disruptive technology proves a new opportunity in a market, competition is bound to follow,” Mozes said.

The emergence of competition could begin to break down some of the barriers to entry. “If there’s another system to market, that could always change the price tag, which would make it more accessible to more practices,” said Schreiber. As competition increases, manufacturers will also look for ways to improve the capabilities of their dental robotics — making the technology more intuitive and even more precise in order to differentiate their systems and stay ahead of rival products. 

Robotics holds the promise of applications in dentistry beyond implant surgery. Orthognathic surgery, endodontics, prosthetics, restorative dentistry and more could all be reshaped by the advent of robotic technology. 

This technology could also mean significant shifts in the dental workflow. Could autonomous robots take over tasks currently performed by dental hygienists and dental assistants? Could they take over for dentists? Some research suggests work performed by hygienists and dental assistants could become computerized, while robots could also alleviate some of the demands on dentists that could result in exhaustion and increased risk of human error.

Smoler sees a future in which advances could streamline the team required to operate Yomi. “There may be advances for voice commands that can take the place of [a] third person,” he speculated. 

But seeing the changes robotics will make in dentistry is going to take time. Before robotic technology becomes the standard of care in dentistry, more research is needed. “Ongoing research will expand the scope of this technology into other areas of dentistry that require keen attention to anatomical features and extreme precision in application, such as endodontics and other jaw surgeries; however, robotics is possible for all areas of dentistry, as we will see in its continuing evolution,” said Talib. 

Even as research demonstrates the efficacy of robotic technology, it still needs to become accessible in terms of price. Dentists also have to be willing to embrace the change and adopt the new technology. 

The question of when robotics will become the standard of care in dentistry remains to be answered. Smoler points out that cone beam computed technology (CBCT) is not yet considered the standard of care in many dental communities in the United States. “If something that is as pervasive as a CBCT machine is not being considered the standard of care in all jurisdictions across the country, sadly, I feel that robotics is going to trail behind,” he said. He anticipates it will first become standard in metropolitan areas with higher population densities, while rural areas will follow more slowly. 

While the timeline is uncertain, widespread adoption of robotics is inevitable. Dental students are already learning how to use the technology. The number of early adopters in the field is growing. The technology’s capabilities are advancing, and more research is being conducted to reflect the efficacy of robotics. Technology has driven transformative change in dentistry since its inception, and robotics is one of the major sea changes for an industry already in motion. 

Carrie Pallardy is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. To comment on this article, email

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