Artificial intelligence has already had a significant impact on dentistry—just as it has on the broader field of healthcare—and it will likely expand in the future. We will explore some of the current uses of AI in the field, its pros and cons, and its future.
Current Applications in Dentistry
As mentioned, there are already numerous uses of artificial intelligence in dentistry, including the following:
You can find AI in some of the training and education for dentists, such as in programs that help dental students evaluate their work.
In orthodontics, AI can help dentists take dental impressions with reduced errors. It can also help determine the best way to move teeth, down to the amount of pressure to apply.
Robotic assistants that use AI can also be helpful during oral surgery. These already exist to take care of semi-automated tasks, such as creating the maxillofacial imagery needed for the surgeries. AI programs can also help surgeons plan the surgeries in a manner that reduces the overall operating time and improves accuracy during the operation.
Some dental AI programs help with scheduling. MMG Fusion’s ChairFill program is an example that contacts patients to schedule treatments.
New smart toothbrushes analyze how someone brushes their teeth and then provides feedback on improving technique.
DEXvoice is among the first dental virtual assistants, similar to Alexa but for dentistry. This technology was developed by Simplifeye, and dentists can use it to pull up charts, patient records, and X-rays, down to the image of a particular tooth or part of the mouth. This improves efficiency and cleanliness, as the dentist does not have to pause, take off their gloves, search the computer, and put their gloves back on.
X-Ray Interpretation for Cavities
Artificial intelligence is also already being used to help dentists spot cavities on X-rays. One example of this is Dentistry.AI from ParallelDots. The system has a data set of thousands of X-rays to help it learn how to identify cavities.
X-Ray Interpretation for Tooth Decay
AI can also be used to interpret those same X-rays, as well as other 3D imagery methods, to spot tooth decay. This involves training AI with images of bone density, which is associated with a risk of tooth decay.
The Good and the Bad
The pros and cons associated with artificial intelligence in dentistry largely overlap with those in healthcare as a whole.
Some pros include:
- Improved accessibility to dental care.
- Improved identification of issues (like cavities) and risks (like bone density and tooth decay).
- Saving costs and time.
- Performing semi-automated or automated tasks in oral surgery.
Some cons include:
- Less personal involvement.
- Could put dental assistants or receptionists out of work.
- Potential overreliance on AI for diagnoses, resulting in incorrect or missed diagnoses.
The Future of AI in Dentistry
The Dentistry.AI program mentioned earlier to help with cavity detection is already in its final stage of development. Once it is ready, the use of AI for diagnosing cavities, tooth decay, and more is expected to increase, with further increases as more programs are developed. It can be especially useful for cone bean images, which are time-consuming for humans to analyze. Experts predict that dentists will soon use deep learning and AI to help with diagnostics and treatment, including early detection of periodontal disease and even better models for orthodontic planning.