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COLOGNE, Germany: The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) has accelerated in many industries in recent years, and dentistry is proving to be no exception. From initial consultations, diagnosis and treatment planning through to surgical procedures and postoperative care, AI technologies are steadily being adopted by dental practices aiming to digitise and streamline their workflows. Here, we will examine some of the current trends in this area and find out what role AI is likely to play in the future of dentistry.
One of the greatest success stories of the dental AI boom is undoubtedly DentalMonitoring (Hall 2.2, Booth B051). Founded in France in 2014, this orthodontics technology specialist has developed AI-powered solutions for conducting clinical analysis of images and 3D files, tracking and predicting tooth movement in a virtual setting, and creating photorealistic simulations. From its humble beginnings as a start-up, DentalMonitoring has now grown to have over 400 employees across 53 countries, gathering investments from dental titans like the Straumann Group along the way.
DentalMonitoring’s success—together with the rise of teledentistry services ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic—has led to other AI-focused propositions being released for the dental sector. Smilo.ai, a web-based platform and app released in February 2021, prompts patients to take images of their own teeth, which are then analysed by its AI technology to help identify potential issues. The patient can then be connected to a dental professional who, depending on the situation, will perform either a virtual or an in-person consultation.
In a similar vein, the Norway-based start-up Attent was launched in 2020 with the goal of moving “clinic-based dental healthcare to your home”. Using an intra-oral scanning device, patients are able to upload scans of their own teeth to an app, where Attent’s AI analyses each tooth for caries and enamel decay. According to the company, users of the Attent app can avoid unnecessary dental check-ups as a result.
“I like to think of AI as a tool for making better use of data in dentistry”– Prof. Falk Schwendicke, Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin
It is not just dental check-ups and procedures that are undergoing AI-induced shifts, however. Among its range of services, the American software company Pearl (Hall 10.2, Booth L034) has just introduced Second Opinion, an AI software application that helps dentists detect pathologies and other conditions in dental radiographs. Second Opinion is This makes it the first AI-powered device designed to detect a full range of conditions and pathologies in dental radiographs to enter the European dental market, and is the latest addition to a range of products the company has developed that apply its patented computer vision technologies to bring greater efficiency, accuracy and consistency to various dental industry stakeholders.
Established companies stake their claim
It is not just dental start-ups that are harnessing the potential of AI, however. In April, the Danish dental company 3Shape launched 3Shape Automate, the world’s first dental crown design service powered exclusively by AI. 3Shape Automate’s proprietary algorithm is able to deliver restorative designs in 5 minutes regardless of how many designs have been ordered, and it is intended for use when dental laboratories experience rush periods, according to the company.
3M Oral Care is another international company that has recently invested in AI’s potential. In December 2020, the company announced that its partnership with Bluelight Analytics had created the Bluelight CheckUp Radiometer. By using AI in combination with an extensive database of light curing information, the radiometer is able to accurately measure all major curing lights and calculate the optimal curing time for light and material combinations.
The research perspective
As the deputy head of the department of operative and preventive dentistry at Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Germany, Prof. Falk Schwendicke has his finger firmly on the pulse of current advancements in the dental world. In an interview with DTI last year, he outlined how AI has been integrated into various elements of digital dental workflows—“everything from CAD/CAM to 3D printing and milling”, in his words.
“I like to think of AI as a tool for making better use of data in dentistry,” Schwendicke stated.
“For example, we often have various images of the same regions of a patient’s mouth taken over certain periods. With the integration of AI technology, one goal might be to analyse these images in order to allow dentists to better understand what, exactly, is going on with their patients and to identify anything that might otherwise be missed,” he added.
Schwendicke is not content with considering AI’s applications in dentistry from a purely theoretical point of view, though. He is also a co-founder of the project to develop dentalXrai Pro, a software program that allows dental practitioners to analyse radiographs based on AI. DentalXrai Pro accesses high-performance computers and a range of algorithms developed from in-depth software training using a large data set of existing dental radiographs, and is intended as a digital second opinion in the dental practice, according to Schwendicke.
Other research has further shed light on different areas in which AI could prove to be beneficial in a clinical setting. In a study published earlier this year, an interdisciplinary team of American researchers outlined their development of a novel machine-learning algorithm that could help dental practitioners better predict the risk of their implant patients developing peri-implantitis.
The algorithm, titled Fast and Robust Deconvolution of Expression Profiles—FARDEEP, in short—was used to investigate the clinical, microbial and immune profiles of a group of implant patients undergoing regenerative therapy and enabled the research team to measure the levels of certain deleterious bacteria and helpful immune cells in each tissue sample collected from the patients.
Though the specific applications of AI technology may vary, one thing is certainly clear: it is already influencing how dentistry is conducted, and will continue to do so as the profession becomes increasingly digital.