Study uses artificial intelligence for gingivitis detection

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Study uses artificial intelligence for gingivitis detection

A newly developed artificial intelligence-based model could help improve the prevention, early detection and management of periodontitis. (Image: Piyaset/Shutterstock)

HONK KONG: The applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in dentistry have been widely explored in recent years. However, a recent study is one of the first to employ AI to detect gingivitis, enabling monitoring of the effectiveness of patients’ plaque control. The technology has the potential for improving the early detection and prevention of oral and systemic diseases associated with periodontal disease, one of the most prevalent oral diseases globally. According to the World Health Organization, nearly one-third of cases of periodontal disease are severe.

From left: Drs Walter Yu-Hang Lam and Reinhard Chun-Wang Chau. (Image: University of Hong Kong)

The interdisciplinary study was a collaboration between researchers from Hong Kong, Guangzhou in China and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. In it, the researchers trained and tested a novel AI model on a data set of over 567 intra-oral photographs of gingiva with varying degrees of inflammation. The study found that the AI algorithm can accurately (> 90%) analyse patients’ intra-oral photographs to detect signs of inflammation, such as redness, swelling and bleeding along the gingival margin. Its accuracy in identifying sites with and without gingival inflammation is close to that of a dentist.

Lead researcher Dr Walter Yu-Hang Lam, a clinical assistant professor in prosthodontics at the University of Hong Kong, said in a press release: “Many patients do not attend regular dental check-ups, and they only seek dentists to alleviate pain when their teeth are at the end stage of dental disease, in which tooth loss is inevitable, and only expensive rehabilitative treatments are available. Our study shows that AI can be a valuable screening tool in detecting and diagnosing gum disease, one of the key indicators of periodontal disease, allowing earlier intervention and better health outcomes for the population,” he noted.

Discussing the benefits of using intra-oral photographs in conjunction with AI technology, lead author Dr Reinhard Chun-Wang Chau, a clinical research coordinator in restorative dental sciences at the University of Hong Kong, said that, based on intra-oral photographs, patients could see which areas they had not cleaned well and seek dental care earlier.

The researchers now plan to make the technology accessible to elderly and underserved communities to improve their oral health outcomes and reduce healthcare disparities.

The study, titled “Accuracy of artificial intelligence-based photographic detection of gingivitis”, was published on 26 April 2023 in the International Dental Journal, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

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