How Dental AI Can Help Address the Hygienist Shortage

Periodontal disease affects millions of people, and is the leading cause of tooth loss if left untreated. Dental hygienists, as critical members of the dental team, are often the first line of defense in providing cleanings and periodontal disease treatment to help manage the infection and prevent it from progressing.

Across the country, though, it can be hard to find hygienists. 

More than 37% of dentists reported they are trying to hire dental hygienists, according to the June 2023 report from the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute. The hygienist shortage is leading many practices to hire temps, rotate hygienists between practices, and depend more heavily on dentists to provide hygiene care.

So how can dentists make sure they’re providing the best patient care consistently, even when short-handed?

Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) technology can help address the hygienist shortage in these ways:

  • Provide objective findings to support the diagnosis. Overjet’s AI, for example, is FDA-cleared to measure the distance from the CEJ to the crest of bone to help doctors determine the degree of periodontal disease.
  • Create clinical consistency by ensuring everyone in the practice, including part-time or temp hygienists, are reviewing the same data and can easily apply the practice’s standards of care for different types of treatment.
  • Elevate clinical diagnostic skills by drawing attention to areas where there may be periodontal disease indicators.
  • Build trust with patients who may not have a relationship established with the provider yet. When patients can see the AI findings on the X-rays for themselves, they better understand why their provider is recommending treatment. 

How Practices Use AI in Hygiene Protocols

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. The earliest stage, gingivitis, can be controlled and treated with professional teeth cleanings and good oral hygiene. Periodontitis is a more serious form of gum disease. 

Approximately 42% of American adults 30 years of age or older have periodontitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The infection can destroy bone and gum tissue, leading to tooth loss.

That’s why it’s imperative to identify and treat the disease early.

AI algorithms such as Overjet’s AI train on large datasets so they can quickly and accurately analyze radiographs, highlighting areas of concern directly on the X-rays. 

With staff turnover, dental practices lose the benefit of institutional knowledge. Overjet’s AI helps fill this void by automatically analyzing patient records from the past 18 months to identify patients who may have unmet periodontal treatment needs. It pulls in the periodontal probing depths from the practice management system and the X-ray analysis findings to predict which patients may be candidates for scaling and root planing or other periodontal treatment. 

How Practices Use AI to Support Insurance Claim Submissions

Insurance companies deny claims for periodontal scaling and root planing (D4341 and D4342) at a higher rate than they deny claims for other procedures, according to the American Dental Association

Insurance companies frequently require supporting documentation to approve these claims, including radiographic evidence of bone loss. Including an AI-annotated X-ray that shows the quantification of bone level measurements can help provide that documentation.

Benefits of AI in Oral Healthcare

The integration of AI technology in radiographic bone loss detection offers several advantages. It provides an objective analysis of the X-rays. Dental professionals can focus on delivering personalized care and treatment, while AI algorithms handle the initial screening and identification of potential problem areas.

Additionally, AI-based systems can serve as valuable educational tools for both dental students and practicing professionals. By leveraging large datasets, these systems can provide a vast array of examples and cases, aiding in the development and refinement of diagnostic skills. AI algorithms keep becoming more sophisticated, improving their accuracy and performance over time.

Last, it helps patients to see what their provider sees. When patients can see where the AI has indicated bone loss, it supports their doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan. With greater understanding comes greater case acceptance. 

To learn more about how Overjet AI can help your practice detect decay, bone loss, and other areas of concern, visit

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