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5 Real Opportunities for AI-Enabled Software in Your Dental Practice

By Planet DDS
May 18, 2022

Technology creates many ways for us to differentiate our brands and offer patients the best experience in healthcare. Artificial intelligence (AI) won’t replace our skills in the operatory, but it’s guaranteed to increase our effectiveness. AI-assisted dentistry opens another door we didn’t have a few years ago, and it can help us diagnose disease, move teeth, manage periodontitis, and much more.  

Our profession primarily uses two types of AI: artificial neural networks (ANNs) and convolutional neural networks (CNNs). 

  • ANNs are patterned after neural networks in the brain and can recognize patterns within data sets.  In dentistry, they can perform helpful actions such as determining the precise length and anatomy of teeth. Facial recognition, weather prediction, and speech-to-text processing systems use this technology, too. 
  • CNNs work by analyzing visual images, making them perfect for dental radiology. For example, they can quickly and precisely locate tooth caries in X-rays and other scans. 

If you want to learn more about how you can use AI for better care, here’s a brief look at where our profession’s headed. Consider five ways to implement AI-enabled software in your practice with today’s technology, and just imagine what’s coming next. 

#5: AI in Radiology 

Experienced clinicians identify dental caries by visual inspection, tactile exam, and years of experience. But a recent study by Pearl showed dentists and CNNs the same 10,000 radiographic images and found that dentists only agreed on the presence of decay in 4.2% of cases. On the other hand, the CNN technology proved far more accurate at identifying the existence of dental caries. 

The study reminds us that radiographic scans leave room for interpretation, and that’s where AI shines. That doesn’t mean we should abandon our clinical exams, but a CNN algorithm could help us confirm our findings. We increase our effectiveness when we combine CAD/CAM technology with our clinical skills, and AI can work the same way. 

CNNs also show potential for detecting periodontally compromised teeth by capturing patterns from PCT images and performing edge detection. This technology can be valuable in tracking the progression of the disease or catching early bone loss. We manage many frustrating perio cases, and this detailed analysis could help us intervene earlier with higher accuracy. 

#4: AI in Oral Pathology 

Patients face a better prognosis with the early diagnosis of oral lesions. AI-powered software boosts our capabilities by detecting tumoural tissues on radiographs and live tissue samples. Today’s CNNs can diagnose cancer lesions with 80% – 83% accuracy, and that range almost perfectly rivals that of the sampled specialists, who achieved around 83%. 

In another study, a CNN algorithm competed against specialists in diagnosing two tumors. The results in accuracy were a close match: The algorithm’s accuracy was 81.8% and 83.3%, while the specialists were 81.1% and 83.2%. 

But these automated algorithms excel by increasing the speed of diagnosis. The specialists took 23 minutes to detect the average tumor, but the CNN algorithm knocked it out in 38 seconds. AI programs could boost speed and efficiency in dental practices with consistent results.  

Imagine the confidence and efficiency we could gain in daily practice as these applications evolve. 

 Visible oral lesions may appear after cellular changes have already occurred in deeper layers, and they often go undetected before it’s too late. In fact, only 28% of oral cancer cases are detected in early stages. Early detection of oral cancer delivers immeasurable savings in human suffering and medical expenses. 

We risk missing critical tissue changes when we perform quick exams that rely on our eyes or lengthy reviews of X-rays. But the detection speed of CNNs could dramatically enhance our ability for more consistent findings. While this technology still needs refinement, there’s massive potential for AI to help us detect oral cancer and save lives. 

#3: Natural Language Processing in Dentistry 

Another promising aspect of AI is natural language processing (NLP). This technology uses computer programs to recognize a human language, process it, and use that information to perform tasks. In dentistry, NLP voice-activated systems can serve as add-ons to dental imaging software. 

Consider how Amazon’s Alexa works. Instead of manually inputting data into the imaging system, clinicians can direct everything with their voice. That capability means we can capture images, view them, and compare them completely hands-free. The patient spends less time in the chair with this streamlined imaging process. 

NLP technology offers a more sanitary way to operate imaging systems since clinicians don’t have to touch keyboards and other hardware components. It’s another way AI technology can enhance patient experiences, improve operational efficiency, and facilitate seamless clinical care. 

#2: AI-Assisted Orthodontics 

Orthodontists aren’t excluded from the AI movement, and software can help optimize treatment outcomes. In the most common application, ANNs offer the perfect technology for determining if a tooth extraction is necessary by analyzing space with various alignment scenarios. ANNs can also compute the best routes for teeth to reach optimal destinations. In other words, AI helps us move teeth into the right place with less trial and error. More precise measurements and analytics lead to better final results and higher patient satisfaction. 

AI-powered computer vision can also diagnose bone pathologies and analyze bone density to help determine projected tooth movement. This technology also can diagnose osteoarthritis in TMJs by deciphering condylar changes. Conventional TMJ imaging cases can be challenging to analyze, but AI brings more insights to clinicians for more effective interventions. 

#1: AI in Endodontics 

CNNs and ANNs can help endodontists get to the ‘root’ of the issue. CBCT imaging helps reveal hidden lesions and bone morphology that are not detected on flat images, and I can’t imagine practicing without it now. But AI software elevates those capabilities and can analyze a radiographic image to determine: 

  • Structure and anatomy 
  • Tissue viability 
  • Precise measurements 
  • Predictability of treatment success 

Deep learning algorithms can help us discover fissures or lesions around the tooth, and they can also detect and classify variations from normal anatomy. We’ve used apex locators to estimate root length for years, but ANNs can precisely locate the apical foramen for optimal treatment outcomes. 

Opportunities for AI Dentistry and Cloud-Based Software Management 

AI-powered technology can enhance dentistry more than we can imagine, and the evolution has just begun. From analyzing radiology images to diagnosing cancer in live tissue samples, AI continues to push the envelope towards more efficient, thorough care. 

AI solutions will feed more data into our practice management software (PMS) and integrate with the clinical record. As we prepare to implement AI into practice, consider robust cloud-based software and imaging solutions equipped to handle change, improve efficiency, and protect data.  

We find comprehensive cloud-based dental software at Planet DDS that serves as the central hub for first-class service and care. Enterprises can store complex AI-supported imaging and related files in a secure off-site location that integrates with the clinical record. If you’re ready to position your business for growth, expansion, and the future, reach out to speak with an expert today