Home Insights & Advice How artificial intelligence will transform the future of dentistry

How artificial intelligence will transform the future of dentistry

by Shawn Tan, CEO of Skymind
25th Jan 21 5:37 pm

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life in all kinds of ways, which has caused damage in a myriad of areas – including our oral health. The past year has seen a surge in unhealthy stress-induced eating and drinking as people find ways to cope with enormous uncertainty.

This has been coupled with major disruptions in dentistry services and care.

In a recent survey, 62% of participants said they could not access dental treatment during the pandemic. It’s no surprise then that the British Dental Association reports there were 19 million fewer dental appointments than predicted for 2020.

While the previous year, there were 39.5 million dental appointments undertaken, 2020 saw much less than 20 million – effectively, the pandemic has halved the number of available dentist appointments.

If great crises lead to great innovation, perhaps this is why Dentistry.ai founders Angam Parashar and Ankit Singh think that within the next year, artificial intelligence (AI) will be increasingly adopted in the dental industry.

Right now, dentistry has an extra boost of support with AI coming into the practice to offer a better diagnosis for dentists and outcomes for patients. In a time of significant upheaval, AI has helped dental clinics all over the world to operate more efficiently and profitably.

AI is currently used in voice commands like DEXvoice. Created by Simplifyeye, DEXIS is the modern dentist’s “Alexa” – allowing the dentist to use a “hands-free” way to bring up patient records, X-rays and charts. This helps the dentist to multi-task, streamlines the workflow, and is also a more hygienic way to work as gloves do not need to be worn to use the computer.

AI has also been enabling dentists to quickly identify and predict tooth decay with a higher degree of accuracy, which historically has required years of experience. Trained through exposure to millions of images, AI assistants have been trained to browse X-ray and 3D images to instantly and accurately generate predictions.

For example, Dentistry.ai has an algorithm that sifts through a series of radiographs and finds patterns that are otherwise impossible for the human eye to find. This means dentists can supercharge their ability to detect oral disease.

Machine learning has enabled dentists to predict potential lesions, through being able to process massive amounts of data and predictive patterns.

In one dental hospital in Malaysia, an AI system provides quality-of-life improvements for dentists and patients alike. A predictive AI dental assistant instantly highlights points of interest from the X-ray image provided, reassuring patients as an extra eye.

Provided this single panoramic X-ray for the patient, in mere seconds the AI system can also suggest future treatment for patients and reports can be generated automatically. The report details the diagnosed disease, stage and grade of periodontitis complete with the location of the affected teeth. Periodontitis can be difficult to diagnose with the human eye and needs an X-ray as it is visible from the bone loss under the gum.

Using the X-ray the AI system can also flag other potential diseases not typically diagnosed with X-rays, such as caries. Instead of the dentist having to use a magnifying glass to spend ten minutes sweeping the image, the AI system can instantly identify things they might have missed and order another test to get a better look. AI can also predict if a difficult surgery is required, which helps the dentist choose an appropriate specialist to refer to.

Beyond diagnostics, AI assistants can help to efficiently schedule and contact patients. AI assistants can contact patients, email appointment reminders, and schedule follow-ups automatically without any need for a human to get involved. This frees up dental staff to carry out more valuable tasks that can raise the profitability of the dental clinic.

In the long run, using an AI system in a dental practice can be the equivalent of hiring multiple, highly-talented new staff members – at a fraction of the cost, since the machine learning component of AI grants optimised operation processes.

Through saving time and the associated costs, it is clear that AI will have a significant role in improving dental practices in the future. The pandemic has simply been a catalyst to creating a more welcoming environment for these changes.

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