Artificial intelligence (AI) has become ubiquitous in our modern society – various sectors and industries have adopted AI into their processes and protocols, from banking and finance to manufacturing, popular culture like music and the arts and, especially, in the healthcare sector.
AI-adoption in dentistry has been a hot-topic in recent decades, and it has divided opinion across the board. But AI is already so ingrained within our lives, with undeniable benefits. Take smartphones: despite certain drawbacks they do make our lives easier, facilitating improved communication, research, connection and interaction.
So, what are the benefits of AI in dentistry? How can the concerns surrounding its adoption be overcome?
Streamlining the treatment process
Modern dentists have much to reckon with, from an aging population to dynamic patient needs, treatment desires and expectations. Combine all this with clinical, regulatory and administrative pressures, and it is clear to see how dentists become overwhelmed.
AI can play a key role in streamlining processes within dentistry, aiding dentists when diagnosing, treating and preventing oral complications. During the treatment planning stages, AI algorithms can utilise information from patient data and treatment histories to help dentists devise a suitable and personalised treatment plan. Software can create smile simulations so patients better appreciate what their smiles might look like after treatment, increasing acceptance and improving consent. This is already a major part of the popular Digital Smile Design (DSD) concept used by many cosmetic and restorative dentists today. Another example of AI in modern dentistry is the automated interpretation of dental images such as radiographs and CBCT scans, with reports generated for clinicians to check, saving them time and reducing the risk of missing important information. Not only do such technologies streamline the workflow and increase accuracy, but they also facilitate faster treatment times. Additionally, AI-driven software can give patients confidence that their clinician is operating in their very best interests.
Improved patient experience
AI can help to improve the patient experience in other ways, too, with intelligent apps and software that allow for streamlined appointment booking and management.
Non-clinical AI tools include website chatbots and virtual assistants, which provide 24/7 support for patients accessing the practice’s website. These ensure patients receive answers to commonly-asked questions and they can book appointments out of hours, saving time for them and your team members.
Yet to come?
Though progress has been exciting to date, there may be much more yet to come from AI in dentistry. Early technologies have been designed to calculate the risk of disease and therefore predict the development of problems in the future. This would be an invaluable preventive tool for clinicians in the years to come. For instance, if it was possible to estimate the likelihood of a patient experiencing periodontal disease or caries, then their dental care can be tailored accordingly and the problems potentially avoided altogether.
The future is now
As with any emerging technology, there are still limitations and concerns regarding AI. Despite being incredibly sophisticated already, these systems still require further development and finessing before they can be safely and effectively maximised upon.
Yet, it is clear that AI has made a positive impact within dentistry and healthcare as a whole. The priority within these sectors is to always deliver care that is safe and clinically necessary, and AI is an ideal tool for improving the treatment pathway, enhancing efficiency and achieving successful outcomes.
As AI continues to become a permanent fixture of the dental landscape, we can anticipate further exciting advancements as the technology matures.