The first and only FDA-cleared robotic dentist in the United States is hard at work in the Phoenix metro area.
Like R2-D2 or Johnny 5, the Yomi robotic dental system from Neocis Inc., the very first dental robotics company based in Miami, has an important job to do.
But it’s not a movie. It’s real life.
Around the period star wars and short circuit hit theaters, Chandler-based Dr. Leslie Fish became one of the first dentists in the world to place a dental implant.
“I was a pioneer in the field of implant dentistry,” Fish said. Phoenix New Times Thursday.
It was at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center in 1982, at a time when robotic dentistry “wasn’t even a passing thought,” Fish said.
Now it’s just another part of everyday life for the New York native.
Yomi provides guidance to dental surgeons when performing implant procedures. Like a GPS system, Yomi’s computerized navigation system assists in both the planning and surgical phases of dental implant surgery.
Fish and his partner, Dr. Lisamarie Sarhangian, have already performed more than 1,500 implant surgeries with the help of their mechanized friend.
Yomi helps with every procedure, even the most basic techniques that Fish says “you could do with your eyes closed,” so practitioners can master the new technology.
“It’s not Los Angeles or New York, but the people of Phoenix are educated and have high expectations,” Sarhangian said. That’s why Phoenix was the perfect city to launch the technology, especially in a suburb defined by the engineering sector.
The robot cost East Valley dentists nearly $300,000, but it was a worthwhile investment in November 2019.
Yomi came into work at Fish and Sarhangian LLC just before the coronavirus pandemic rocked Arizona and has been tireless helping patients ever since. Stepping back from a usually hectic schedule of routine dental care has allowed Fish and Sarhangian to get to know Yomi better.
“I can do the procedures myself — I’ve been doing it since the 1980s,” Fish said. “But I’m only human. Between my surgical skills and the robot, I’m more precise. Human experience mixed with technology wins.
Roughly 4 million dental implant procedures are performed annually in the United States. Until now, getting a dental implant has been a daunting task, requiring repeated office visits over a long period of time, as the affected area needs time to heal before further procedures can proceed.
With the help of the robot, Fish recently placed two implants in just seven minutes.
Due to the precision of the Yomi robotic system, in just one office visit, a patient can have a tooth extracted and walk away with a viable tooth in time for their next meal with far less downtime and discomfort per compared to conventional surgery, says Neocis.
The company regularly sends people to Chandler to observe the process.
“The world leader in robotic implant surgery is right here in Chandler, Arizona,” Fish said. “This is where it all begins. It’s still in its infancy, but it’s incredible technology.
The robot dentist has attracted patients from across the United States.
Linda Tendler flew in from San Diego for a date with Yomi last summer, seeking respite from 30 years of constant dental pain. After three root canal treatments, a tooth abscess, bone loss and dry socket due to the broken tooth, the 67-year-old was losing faith in human dentists.
“It was a sore tooth,” Tendler said new times. “I had so much trauma with this tooth. I was so nervous about having it implanted.
She was unhappy and didn’t get much support from her local dentists. Then she heard about Yomi.
“It’s amazing to have been one of the first people in the world to do this,” Tendler said. “It never occurred to me that I would be operated on by a robot in my life, but I’m happy with the result.”
Robotics has played a key role in medicine for more than 20 years.
In Belgium, in 1997, Dr. Jacques Himpens performed the first robot-assisted operation on a living patient, a removal of the gallbladder using a robot called Mona.
It’s only just beginning to permeate the dental industry, and Chandler’s practice on the Warner and Alma School routes is ground zero.
“Dentistry is so behind the times,” Fish said. “Most dental treatments are done in fractions of a millimeter. How can a human perform with this level of precision every time? »
Even after two years, Yomi remains the only FDA-approved dental robot practicing in the country. But Fish predicts that after a decade, surgical cyborgs will be commonplace in dental practices around the world.
Attached to Yomi’s robotic arm is a surgical drill that is always held and controlled by the dentist throughout the procedure. It provides haptic feedback to the dentist, if the human attempts a move that deviates from the plane.
During the procedure, the arm safely guides the dentist’s hand as they grasp the drill at the correct pre-measured angle, direction and depth.
The fish showed new times how the robot works during surgery in his office in Chandler on Thursday morning. A local elderly patient had four implants placed by another dentist in the area, but one fractured. She trusted only Yomi to repair the damage.
“The robot can feel where it wants to put the implant,” Fish said. “It will only allow me to drill to the depth I have planned.”
It’s this level of precision that puts nervous patients like Tendler at ease.
According to Fish, some valley surgeons fear that with the proliferation of robotics in the industry, dentists will be laid off.
For the former director of a public health clinic in Casa Grande, which led him to fall in love with Arizona, robots are friends, not enemies.
“You need surgical expertise, surgical knowledge and surgical experience to merge with technology,” he said.
Oral surgeons are trained to remove tooth decay down to the cellular level. Even the most advanced imaging technology today cannot compete with this human precision, while human dentists struggle to keep pace with the spatial precision of robots like Yomi.
“Surgery will never be 100% automated in the dental industry,” Fish prophesied.
But it left the door open for such a revolutionary technological leap in the future.
“I don’t think it’s possible,” he said, “but the technology changes, no doubt.”