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Experts discuss transformative power of AI during SmileCon session

Dental industry is ‘ripe’ for implementation

October 12, 2021

AI panelists at SmileconSharing expertise: Speakers at the AI Panel Discussion: Augmented Intelligence discussed the future of the technology. From left is Gregory G. Zeller, D.D.S., Kyle Stanley, D.D.S., Christopher Smiley, D.D.S., and Aruna Ramesh, D.M.D. Photo by EZ Event Photography. 

Las Vegas — From helping dentists interpret radiographs to speeding up the adjudication of dental insurance claims, augmented intelligence is poised to transform dentistry.

“To call it transformative, we really need to ascribe some functionality to it,” said Robert Faiella, D.M.D., chief dental officer of Overjet and past president of the American Dental Association. “Today, we hope to give you an introduction on several areas where it’s currently being used, as well as areas where we have visions for the future.”

Dr. Faiella moderated AI Panel Discussion: Augmented Intelligence on Oct. 12 during SmileCon. Session panelists included Aruna Ramesh, D.M.D., associate dean for academic affairs and professor in oral and maxillofacial radiology at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine; Christopher Smiley, D.D.S., general dentist and editor of the Journal of the Michigan Dental Association; Kyle Stanley, D.D.S., chief clinical officer of Pearl; and Gregory G. Zeller, D.D.S., professor emeritus of oral health practice at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry.

“As we take a look at AI, it’s an incredible tool that we can use chairside with our patients to help assemble diagnostic information,” Dr. Smiley said.

For example, AI programs can annotate radiographs during an appointment to show decay, bone loss or more — all factors that go into making a clinical diagnosis, he said. AI-certified diagnoses could speed up approval of dental insurance claims, and dentists can also show the annotations to patients to better communicate with them.

AI also facilitates the sharing of patient information among dental and medical practitioners.

“I think AI has the potential to actually have the ability to break silos in health care because if we had access to every health detail and data of a patient, as a dental health care provider, we can treat this patient better,” Dr. Ramesh said.

Standards developed by the ADA help to facilitate the consistent collection and transfer of this data.

“If you are going to aggregate data, you need to do it in a standardized manner,” Dr. Zeller said.

Dentistry is particularly well suited for the use of AI because of relatively easy access to data from private practices not burdened by bureaucracy or politics, a tolerant customer base of dentists who perform several tasks within their practices and are not concerned about losing their jobs if AI assists with some of those tasks, and easy implementation that again is not burdened by the dynamics of larger institutions, Dr. Stanley said.

“The dental industry is really ripe for AI to be implemented,” he said.