Dentistry, a high-tech version: Robots not far off, doctor says

HACKENSACK, N.J. — Robots may practice dentistry one day, but there will always be humans telling you to open wide, said a teacher on the cutting edge of tooth care.

Dr. Nicolas Elian, an oral surgeon, said that while robots might even perform his specialty, dental implants, they won't be able to replace a dentist's years of education and hands-on experience.

"There's no substitute for expert skill and clinical judgment," Elian said. "We, as the doctors, will still have to make the commitment" to taking personal care of patients.

Elian, 47, is president and chief executive officer of Vizstara, a high-tech, full-service dental practice and continuing education academy in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Vizstara seeks to put patients at ease as soon as they walk in, he said. The sleek $8 million, 15,000-square-foot facility, which opened a year ago, feels more like a futuristic European spa than a dentist's office. The decor of the center, housed in a former Hyundai headquarters on 300 Sylvan Avenue, is a sweep of marble, walnut, African rosewood and recessed lighting, designed by architect Ezio Riva of Milan.

"It's a very relaxing environment," Elian said.

Each of 12 treatment rooms has its own ergonomically contoured patient chair and individually controlled light, music and temperature. There are 16 televisions throughout. A pediatric wing will soon have a $20,000 spaceship playroom to distract young patients, in addition to video games and TV.

The inter-disciplinary team of specialists at Vizstara covers every area of oral care, from teeth and gums, to smiles and jawbones.

The dentists and faculty are affiliated with New York University College of Dentistry, where Elian is head of the implant division. NYU also is where Elian met his wife, Dr. Martha Miqueo-Elian, chief of pediatric and adolescent dentistry at Vizstara, and an attending pediatric dentist at Hackensack University Medical Center.

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