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Dentists across Scotland are testing AI program that can identify dental caries

AssistDent is a program that utilises artificial intelligence to aid dentists in more accurately detecting dental caries. (Image: shmai/Shutterstock)

GLASGOW, UK: A pioneering study is being carried out across both National Health Service (NHS) and non-NHS dental practices in Scotland in which software driven by artificial intelligence (AI) is helping practitioners locate caries more effectively. The program, AssistDent, was developed by Manchester Imaging, a spin-off company from a collaboration between dentistry and imaging sciences at the University of Manchester in the UK.

Aimed at early detection, AssistDent utilises machine learning algorithms to evaluate dental radiographs to note or confirm areas of potential enamel-only proximal caries. With early identification of dental caries, patients can avoid fillings through preventive care such as fluoride treatments.

With more than 65 practices and 200 dentists serving over half a million patients across Scotland, Clyde Munro Dental Group is using AssistDent in a pilot test with five of its dentists located across Scotland. Fiona Wood, the chief operating officer for Clyde Munro, explained the use of AI as a powerful tool for prevention, stating: “We always aim for prevention—and this technology has the potential to support our dentists in identifying the early signs of tooth decay before it develops and to direct the prevent care needed to the correct teeth. The AI is a useful tool to show and demonstrate to patients areas of dental need or concern to give the patient the chance to reverse enamel changes with support from Clyde Munro dentists.”

AssistDent’s capability has been evaluated in peer-reviewed research conducted by experts from the University of Manchester’s dental school published in the British Dental Journal. In the study, the group that used AssistDent found 76% of the caries previously identified by expert dentists on 24 bitewing radiographs, compared with 44% of the problem areas found by the group that did not utilise the AI software. The researchers concluded that AssistDent significantly improves dentists’ ability to identify enamel-only proximal caries.

According to the 2019 Global Burden of Disease study and the World Health Organization, untreated dental caries affects 44% of the global population, some 3.5 billion people, making it the most common condition out of nearly 300 evaluated.

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