The risk more dentists are taking to improve clinical outcomes

More dentists are shifting their perspectives and becoming more open to adopting artificial intelligence technology at their practices, according to VideaHealth CEO Florian Hillen. 

The dental AI company recently partnered with medtech company vVardis to improve preventive dental care. Through the partnership, the two companies will further develop VideaHealth's AI technology to better detect cavities early on.

Mr. Hillen recently spoke with Becker's about VideaHealth's newest partnership and how AI is evolving in the dental industry. 

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What are you most proud of about VideaHealth's accomplishments from this year so far?

Florian Hillen: We have now over 30,000 dental clinicians using our platform everyday. We support over 15 million patients per year and process almost half a billion dental X-rays per year. So [we are executing our] mission of helping thousands of dentists for millions of patients and that's incredibly rewarding. What I'm most proud of is, first of all, having won the large deal with Heartland Dental against all our competitors because we were able to show that we have the best product and increase our clinical care. I'm very proud that we rolled out to over 1,600 offices where we have over half a year later over 95% activity adoption. The adoption of new technologies is really hard. Through our product and our processes and our people we've achieved having that across thousands of offices, so I'm very proud of that.

Q: How does VideaHealth's partnership with vVardis advance preventive dentistry?

FH: vVardis has developed a very great product, Curodont, which can be used to treat early stage disease like incipient decay to stop decay and or even remineralize it. That's wonderful to have treatments for early stage disease, and then maybe we can even reverse it. We've just launched an update to our caries algorithm a couple of months ago where our AI is incredibly good at identifying incipient decay. We will work continuously to improve and build proprietary algorithms to identify very early stage decay. That's where the mission of vVardis and us come together and where we have good synergies of very large data sets between both our companies in order to build these proprietary algorithms. My goal is preventive dentistry. I really believe this is a landmark partnership to enable preventative care. 

For preventative care, you need two things. On one side, you need to be able to spot early stages of disease before they become too big. Otherwise, you cannot prevent it. Then you need treatments or things you can do with these early stage treatments to stop the progression or even reverse it, and the dentist can completely choose what that might be, but that's where our partnership is a landmark partnership. 

Q: What will be VideaHealth's core focuses for the rest of 2024?

FH: I think we'll double down on doing the best by our customers to enable them to not just buy AI but really have the results of AI. We help our customers, the dental chains, adopt AI successfully so they get the clinical results. So we'll continue doing that and we'll continue our partnerships, including with Henry Schein One, to bring AI to the masses and to thousands of more practices. AI nowadays is a competitive advantage. The benefits of dental AI are clear for patients and for the clinicians, so I think we'll see a huge adoption, and we are there to serve on a high-quality level as partners.

Q: How do you see the perception of AI evolving in the dental field?

FH: It changes rapidly. I was just at the ADSO conference and at the 2023 ADSO, the verbiage was, "I'm not sure. I don't think I need AI necessarily, and I don't want to be the first." Last week, the verbiage was, "I totally understand that it helps me [with] patient communication and increased case acceptance, so I definitely want AI and I don't want to be the last." So it completely flipped. They saw it as a risk and now they see it almost as a risk to not have AI. 

Q: Do you find that DSOs are more open to AI than private practitioners?

FH: I think DSOs, since they're very numbers driven — not just financial numbers but also clinical numbers — understood the benefits of AI on a scale earlier. So they were more open in the past, but I think [dentists are starting] to get more and more open, and also senior practitioners are starting to adopt the technology.

Q: Do you still believe that dentistry will surpass the healthcare field in AI adoption?

FH: A hundred percent. I've been in healthcare all my life. I was a medical student once before and I worked all my life in healthcare and the last decade in AI. If you look at the adoption of AI in radiology and how quick it was adopted versus the adoption we have from a few hundred dentists using our platform a while ago to now having over 30,000 clinicians using it daily, it is crazy how quickly this goes from an early technology to the standard of care. I'm sure that in 12 or 24 months, we will have this interview and I can confidently say dental AI has surpassed healthcare AI.

Q: What other trends with AI are you following at the moment?

FH: I do believe people are still underestimating the impact AI will have on our society in the next three, five and seven years. I'm an optimist. I think we need AI in order to solve global problems such as with food and energy and climate. I do think we need AI to help us in research and to help us in making processes more efficient. I think what you will see is that the technology is much more advanced than we all believed. I think we will soon hit a shortage where we are only limited by processing power and energy. This will be very interesting how it impacts chip manufacturers and energy, but if we resolve these bottlenecks, I think it can help us solve significant societal challenges.

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