Columbia University’s recently opened Center for Precision Dental Medicine
Columbia University’s recently opened Center for Precision Dental Medicine
(Photo: Jeffrey Berman | Architect)


By Maxwell Rotbart


A new project by Columbia University’s Center for Precision Dental Medicine aims to revolutionize the dental experience by allowing dental practitioners to quantify numerous aspects of patient visits, including stress levels and a variety of systemic health measures.

Patients at Columbia’s new 15,000-square-foot dental clinic, located on West 168th Street in upper Manhattan, are monitored throughout their visit using state-of-the-art technological tools. According to university promotional materials, the patients who utilize the clinic include neighborhood residents and international clientele.

As reported by, Columbia’s dental patients are tracked from the moment they check-in for their appointment through a radio-frequency identification wristband. The wristband - in the same vein as Disney’s much-vaunted MagicBands - keeps track of how much time each patient spends waiting for his or her doctor to appear, where the patient is in the building, the nature of the patient’s appointment, and the previous dental work that the patient received.

In addition, Columbia’s dental chairs are embedded with radio-frequency identification chips that are linked to the wristband, which allows the chair to automatically adjust to the angle that the patient found most comfortable during his or her previous visit.

Dental tools are similarly equipped, logging when they were last cleaned or sharpened to keep them in top shape.


Dr. Lee Goldman
Dr. Lee Goldman

Chairs That Provide Biofeedback

All of this is intended to help dentists improve the quality of their practice and the patient experience, observing and correcting patterns that might disrupt that. In addition, dentists are able to track general health trends and better observe symbiotic aspects of physical and oral health

While the tracking helps dentists refine their practice, it also has direct benefits for patients. The radio-frequency identification chairs measure the sweat, body temperature, and heart rate of patients - in other words, their stress levels. Their anxiety measurements from appointment to appointment are tracked, allowing dentists to provide a more customized experience.

To accomplish all of this, Columbia relies on technology developed by Planmeca, a Finnish dental appliance manufacturer. Planmeca, which is almost 50 years old, also designs cameras that are placed throughout the clinic at Columbia, allowing professors to supervise students in real time, and allowing the dental students to reflect on their techniques later.

Columbia University’s Center for Precision Dental Medicine is only months-old, having been unveiled in December 2017 as part of the school’s College of Dental Medicine. Working to integrate all aspects of healthcare, Dr. Lee Goldman, the chief executive of Columbia University’s Medical Center, explains in a video on the school’s website:

“I think what’s especially exciting about the Center for Precision Dental Medicine - it has our dental college leapfrogging ahead of where dental education and dental medicine is in most parts of the world… This is the beginning of ‘the New Wave’ of dental medicine.”

All of this promises a more productive, less-stressful visit for patients at Columbia’s dental clinic, and for Americans around the country as its graduates enter the workforce.

Author: Contributing writer Maxwell Rotbart specializes in covering business, education, and history-related topics. He is the author of The State of Israel: Prime Ministers, available from

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