How dental AI helps providers improve their diagnostic workflow

A significant challenge in the dental industry is the inconsistency of diagnoses and treatment plans across different providers. Machine learning has the power to change that by building artificial intelligence (AI) models that train using years of professional dental experience. The result is a more standard, consistent, efficient and accurate recommendation to support the clinician.

In an October Becker's Dental Review webinar sponsored by Overjet, Robert Kolts, DDS, clinical director at Overjet, and Ankoo Raina, DMD, chief dental officer at Dallas-based Jefferson Dental and Orthodontics, discussed how dental AI works and how Jefferson Dental has used this technology to support its providers, increase treatment acceptance rates, and build patient trust.

Five key takeaways were:

  • AI creates greater consistency and alignment. Many patients have had the experience of receiving different diagnoses from different dentists based on the same x-rays. AI learns from tens of millions of clinical data points to improve diagnostic consistency and accuracy. AI has the ability to detect decay and quantify bone loss,, which helps clinicians determine which teeth to watch and which ones require intervention.
  1. This standardization increases case acceptance and boosts patient trust. Dr. Kolts reported that Overjet has seen a 21 percent increase in case acceptance when a patient is exposed to AI during the treatment planning process versus when patients are not. "I think it's very impactful to the quality of care your patients are receiving as well as to the growth and prosperity of your practice," he said. At Jefferson Dental, the case acceptance rate jumped from 34 percent without visualization tools to 72 percent when patients were shown X-rays with AI and also a 3D scan of their teeth.

Dr. Kolts believes what makes AI so impactful is the role it plays in three core drivers of trust. "The first is authenticity, which is when the patient can experience the real you as a clinician and a person. Empathy is the second driver, believing you have their best interest at heart. The third is logic, which is trusting your reasoning and judgment behind the diagnosis." Sharing the AI results helps solidify that logic.

  1. AI has the potential to streamline the entire process.  AI can review 18 months of radiographs from prior visits and cross-reference information in the practice management system to identify potential opportunities for patient care. That can help clinicians plan their day. After the appointment, the team can submit the radiographs with the objective AI findings to the dental insurance companies to support their diagnosis.
  2. Although AI can support diagnosis, it does not replace the dentist. According to Dr. Kolts, Overjet has used hundreds of thousands of annotated radiographs to encode dentist-level understanding into deep learning models. "Each model is trained on multiple clinicians' lifetimes' worth of x-rays," he said. "It doesn't mean the AI is smarter than a human; it has just taken in much more data."

"We aggregate these models into a single x-ray to make relevant clinical recommendations," he said. "Overjet does not diagnose. It is a decision support tool to help clinicians perform their dental exam more accurately and efficiently."

  1. Jefferson Dental views AI as a competitive advantage in hiring and training. Overjet plays a role before providers even join Jefferson Dental. "This is our number one recruitment tool," Dr. Raina said. "From the time providers interview with us, they are excited about this technology."

Once they are hired, new providers complete an extensive onboarding program. "We show them all these platforms and they go over the patient experience journey," she said. "They not only get to learn about the technology, how to maneuver it and how to use it as a diagnostic tool, but they also get to practice patient case presentations."

By leveraging AI technology, dental practices can provide more accurate, consistent care, increase patient trust and acceptance of treatment plans and boost revenue.

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