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Exploring the Present and Future Usage of Artificial Intelligence in Dentistry
From robotic arms in warehouse and manufacturing settings to AI algorithm trading on Wall Street and wealth management offices, artificial intelligence is ensconced in numerous industries and day-to-day business processes. Capable of doing just about anything more quickly and efficiently than manual work, the powers and capacities of AI technology have become so ubiquitous, many people and professions don’t even realise when they’re using it.
Dentistry is one of those professions. Let’s explore how more practices — and the dental industry as a whole — may come to rely on artificial intelligence to boost patient care, improve performance and help patients achieve better overall oral health.
In what ways is artificial intelligence used in dentistry?
Before we get into specific examples, artificial intelligence in dentistry refers to the use of advanced technologies to help dentists, hygienists and front-office staff perform their jobs more efficiently. Some of these tasks may be related to diagnosis, assessment, treatment planning, appointments booking, patient follow-up, inventory management and more.
Here are some examples of how AI can be put to work in dentistry and patient treatment:
1. Image analysis
X-rays are a core component of patient care, either as part of a routine checkup or to identify a problem causing pain. Where available, AI algorithms can analyse dental images to help dentists not just identify potential dental caries, but also contribute to treatment planning. It can also provide more certainty that a patient has a condition or problem rather than the dentist having to rely solely on their best judgment. Additionally, Artificial intelligence can be used to more readily recognise other oral health issues such as gum disease or certain mouth cancers.
2. Predictive modeling
Similarly to other ailments, factors such as family history and personal care (i.e., oral hygiene) can influence whether a patient is vulnerable to an oral disease or chronic issue. AI can predict a patient’s risk of developing certain oral health problems based on key risk factors as well as demographics and their personal medical history. In practices with this kind of dental AI, predictive modeling can help dentists identify patients who may be susceptible to oral health problems and offer recommendations to mitigate risk.
3. Surgical planning and preparation
Whether it’s for wisdom tooth removal, a root canal or a number of other procedures, surgery may be in the best interest of a patient to restore normal function, reduce pain and inflammation or eliminate infection. But every surgery must begin with a plan of attack. AI can assist with surgical planning by more efficiently preparing dental surgeons for the procedure. For example, through 3D image analysis, an oral surgeon, orthodontist or other dental health professional can use the imaging to plan the proper positioning and angulation for patients receiving dental implants in accordance with the patient’s jaw line or structure.
4. Virtual assistant
Between scheduling appointments, answering phone calls, sending reminders about checkups and a host of other day-to-day rituals, a dental practice office staff must be adept at multitasking. But they also have to be able to priortise certain responsibilities over others. Faced with dueling priorities, more dental practices are taking advantage of virtual assistants to lighten receptionists’ workload. Virtual assistants can be deployed in a number of ways — on websites as chatbots, for instance, or through automated messaging when patients call the office directly — but they’re all designed to maximise administrative efficiency for the dental practice and overall satisfaction for the patient.
5. Robotic dentistry
As both newly minted and seasoned dentists are well aware, the sensitive nature of attending to oral health requires rigorous academic preparation and hands-on experience in laboratory settings. But as proficient as a dental practice may be, quality equipment plays a major role in ensuring they perform at their best with precision. Robotic dentistry, for example, utilises AI for common and slightly more invasive dental procedures such as polishing or drilling. These robotic systems can be programmed to work with a high degree of accuracy, which reduces the risk of complications and improves the patient’s health outcomes.
6. Predict viability of dental implants
Dental implants in cosmetic dentistry have become an industry of their own. Whether it’s to replace a broken tooth with a bridge or cap or replace an entire set of teeth with veneers, dental implants help to restore a smile, increase self-confidence or avoid bone loss. But not everyone is a good candidate for implants as a wide range of factors (e.g., age, oral hygiene, patient health history, etc.) can lead to complications that may compromise the performance of the implant(s) .
Neural networks are providing more visibility into how dental implants will perform before they’re put in place. Neural networks are a type of machine learning algorithm that are modeled and structured similarly to the human brain. As their name suggests, they’re made up of interconnected neurons that process massive amounts of information. Through AI, they can be trained to recognise patterns and predict health outcomes. In the case of dental implants, neural networks can produce a virtual model of a patient’s mouth and predict the most efficient, effective treatment plan as well as the type of material that’s best for the patient (e.g., porcelain, titanium, gold, ceramic, etc.).
Additionally, as discussed in a scholarly review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, neural networks rely on algorithms to detect dental caries by locating the edges of anatomical and pathological structures in radiological images, such as bitewings, periapical x-rays and panoramic x-rays.
Artificial intelligence will never fully replace dentists or hygienists but it will enable every dental practice to perform more effectively. Dental4Web and its state-of-the-art integrations is a great way to introduce AI to your office. As the most popular global dental practice management system vendor in Australia, Centaur Software helps you automate administrative tasks that enable you to proactively communicate with your patients before, during and after their visit. For more details about how Dental4Web works — and how it can work for you — please contact us or visit our website.
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