Attending IDS 2023 was a huge eye-opener - it showed me the increasing evidence that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to play a crucial role in the future of dentistry.
Back at IDS 2019, there was very little talk of AI. Fast-forward to 2023 and there were over 13 different companies that were all focused on using AI in dentistry. Pretty incredible to be honest.
It made me wonder how are we currently using AI and what does the future of dentistry look like with this incredible technology?
The current use of AI in dentistry
At this stage, the main use of AI in dentistry seems to be as a diagnostic aid for detecting a number of pathologies on 2D and 3D x-rays including but not limited to dental caries and periodontal disease and/or bone loss.
The different companies using AI in dentistry currently can be broadly broken up into 2 groups – those that only read 2D X-rays such as bitewings and OPGs and those that have 3D x-ray (CBCT) capabilities.
What is quite fascinating is how all these different companies try to capture market share.
On one hand, you have Pearl AI by talented clinician Dr Kyle Stanley. He leads arguably the most popular dental AI company that has FDA approval in the USA (the world's largest digital dentistry market by a large margin). Pearl is doing some fascinating things with AI in terms of optimizing patient bookings and recalls when hooked into your practice management software.
Overjet and Videahealth have 510(k)s approvals for caries and radiographic bone loss and Denti.ai has one for auto charting. Companies such as Henry Scheinhave actually embedded Videahealth's AI functionality into both their Dentrix and Ascend software and include their FDA-cleared functionality in their diagnostic workflows.
Other companies such as Diagnocat which is led by Alex Sanders have taken a different approach with the focus almost completely being on 3D x-rays.
His software was one of the first to enable fully automated and AI-driven segmentation of facial bones, x-rays, and now even airway spaces and sinuses. This is one of the ways I heard about the software as it was a very handy tool for people who wanted individual STLs of each tooth.
Diagnocat is next moving into the field of automated and AI-driven implant surgical guide creation and aligner treatment.
An example of Diagnocat Software shown above
It's incredible to think about where the future of dentistry is headed.
For instance, CAD is a factor that scares a lot of dentists and is likely a major barrier for many in adopting chairside 3D printing.
Here is a scenario - with AI and other software out there, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine getting a patient who may need an implant, taking a CBCT, uploading it to AI software, getting back a surgical guide design almost instantly, checking and confirming the design, and then printing all within 30 minutes.
AI in CAD/CAM not just diagnostics
Other companies are going into the dental prosthetic space such as DentBird which seems to provide a completely cloud-based CAD solution. After uploading scans, the AI can detect margin lines and provide a CAD design of your choice. Currently limited to single units but without a doubt with enough time and resources, this could be extended to almost all indications in dentistry.
AI is also being incorporated by some established big digital dentistry players.
3Shape was one of the first on this scene and this is a testament to how forward-thinking they are as an organization. They have released a number of AI-driven services like their model builder and 3Shape's Automate which can completely design single and multiple-unit tooth-borne restorations within a few minutes. The company claims it has completed over 1 million designs with a 92% acceptance rate of the first proposal. Crazy.
It's not just the scanner companies that are having all the fun. 3D printer company SprintRay has also shown comparable foresight to 3Shape. Their RayCloud software offers a number of AI features including a completely AI-based night guard design. Although it definitely needs a bit of work, it's a step in the right direction.
3Shape Automate showcased at IDS 2023.
At IDS 2023 iTero also showcased their new AI features in the upcoming new software for the iTero Element 5D Plus line of scanners. The company has recently acquired an AI company that was working in the dental field and is implementing AI diagnostics of 2D X-rays directly into their scanner software. Quite cool.
Currently, digital dentistry still exists on many separate ‘islands’ but soon there will be centralized locations for all of this different data, and it makes sense to have AI diagnostics with your scanner. They must be the first scanner company to move in this direction which is a welcomed improvement to iTero scanners which as of late have seemed to fall out of the limelight.
The future of AI in Dentistry
A lot of people are wondering what AI will look like if it's fully integrated into a dental clinic. Are dentists actually comfortable using it? This is something we will need to investigate - as is the case with many industries, we are still waiting for a full idea of just how far-reaching AI can be.
I think the most important factor to make clear is that the clinician is always in charge and has the final say. AI should be seen as a tool, not to replace our own clinician judgments and decision-making. Or as Pearl aptly puts it – a Second Opinion.
We should never rely on AI completely for diagnostics as it is likely it will never get it 100% right (neither do humans, to be fair), but we should realise how powerful these tools are (hello ChatGPT, anyone?) and they will without a doubt improve outcomes whether diagnostic or treatment based.
Recently I read a news article about AI detected a breast cancer 4 years before it developed. Very interesting stuff and it's not a stretch to think how much AI could help in dentistry.
All that can be said is that without a doubt the next 2 years before IDS 2025 will be interesting. I expect AI to be a big hot topic for the years to come.
What do you think? Are you already using AI in your clinic? Leave your comments below.
Special thanks to Eli Ganon for helping us compile the list of these AI companies at IDS 2023.
Eli Ganon is an experienced industry analyst, advisor, strategist and engineer with more than 25 years of experience in the development and promotion of cutting-edge technologies, focusing on the dental segment. With an extensive network of contacts and sources throughout the global dental community, Eli scours the world for the latest developments and trends in dentistry. The range of his interests include materials, devices and software, with a special focus on digital dentistry.