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AI Making Some Headway into Diagnosis and Prognosis in Dentistry 

The application of AI in dentistry has concentrated so far on diagnosis and prognosis based on data in medical records. Experts see more potential. (Credit: Getty Images) 

By AI Trends Staff  

The application of AI to dentistry so far has concentrated on diagnosis and prognosis by extracting useful information from a large volume of medical records. Professionals in the field see greater potential for AI. 

To move it along, leaders in the dental industry last fall formed the Dental AI Council (DAIC) to help define the future of AI in dentistry. The membership includes practitioners, dental service organizations, equipment manufacturers, practice management software providers, insurance carriers, laboratories, and universities.   

Dr. Linda Vidone, Chief Clinical Officer, Delta Dental of Massachusetts

“Diagnosis, treatment, prosthetics, practice management, claims review, FWA oversight––the list of areas where AI can improve performance in our industry is long,” stated Dr. Linda Vidone, Chief Clinical Officer at Delta Dental of Massachusetts, in an account on the site of the Aegis Dental Network“To see that performance boost soon, we’ll need to buck a trend where innovation in dental lags behind other medical fields. The DAIC will be a reputable information source and guide to encourage AI’s early adoption and mindful deployment in dentistry.” 

DAIS members include executives of Cigna, Delta Dental, DSG, Heartland, Henry Schein, NDX and Walmart. 

“The various dental stakeholders usually have distinct appetites when it comes to the fruits of technological progress, but AI is a rare example of a technology that can serve all,” stated Dr. Markus Blatz, Chair and Professor of Restorative Dentistry, University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. “The range of representatives joining the table here reflects AI’s broad utility and ensures that DAIC research will attend to the whole gamut of industry interests.” 

Dr. Roshan Parikh, Head of Dentistry, Walmart

Dr. Roshan Parikh, Head of Dentistry at Walmart, welcomes the opportunity to work with leaders across the industry in this evolving field. “We need a productive interchange of ideas and expertise, cross-pollinated with a best practices-focused mindset to foster advancement in dental AI,” Parikh stated.  

Literacy around AI should help dispel potential misconceptions about what the technology brings to the table, suggested one participant. “At present, the excitement about AI’s enormous value potential in dental is attenuated by misconceptions and even some fear,” stated the DAIC’s lead organizer. Ophir Tanz, CEO of the dental AI company Pearl. “To chart a path forward for AI, the dental community needs to understand the science and recognize common fallacies surrounding AI. It’s the DAIC’s mandate to provide that education.” 

AI Dental Startup Overjet Spun Out of Harvard Dental School 

Dental AI startup Overjet was founded in 2018 with the idea of applying AI to the analysis of clinical data to aim for better patient dental health  Cofounder Dr. Alex Jelicich, a graduate of MIT and Harvard Dental School, was initially backed by the Harvard Innovation Lab. The company in mid-2020 raised $7.85 million in a seed round of funding. 

“Through my clinical experience during dental school and residency, I grew to appreciate the vast amount of information that a dentist needs to process in order to adequately diagnose and treatment plan a dental case,” Jelicich stated in an account from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine“I wondered if there might be a way to use technology to aid dentists in detecting needed treatments and standardize the delivery of dental care.” An AI system to achieve this was developed by a collaboration of dentists and engineers from Harvad and surrounding universities. 

The idea is to use computer vision algorithms to identify oral anatomy and diseases from dental x-rays and other patient records to determine the correct treatments for each patient. Jelicich envisions a future in which dental insurance companies could use the software to automate the claim review process, potentially reducing costs. He also sees the potential for dental group practices to identify necessary but missed treatments, to measure the quality of care provided by their dentists, increase practice profitability, and standardize patient care. 

Research Into AI in Dentistry Goes Back Over 10 Years 

Research into how AI can be applied in dentistry has been going on for over 10 years. Some researchers in 2009 modeled how an AI neural network could predict the necessity of extraction during orthodontic treatment, according to an account from the National Institute of Health 

Another study used data mining to analyze differences in restoration results, to better determine the lifespan of a restoration. “The studies proved the application of AI in the current dental field to diagnose and make prognosis through extrication of useful information from large amounts of medical records,” the NIH account stated. 

The report did not predict that AI would be replacing dentists anytime soon. “The actual examination, diagnosis and treatment is done by dentists and AI only plays a role in assisting the dental professional,” the NIH stated. 

Read the source articles and information from the Aegis Dental Network, from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and from the National Institute of Health 

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