Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to play an increasingly important part of our lives. The importance of AI in dentistry has been recognized for a long time. Yet, dentistry, like many fields in the health care services, is very conservative about the kinds of technologies it adopts. With people’s health at stake, there is a tendency to go slowly, to be cautious. Yet, the evidence of the benefits of AI to dentistry has been so strong, especially during the global health care crisis, that dentistry has embraced AI. In this article, we will discuss why AI dentistry is here to stay.
In 1997, an investigative journalist for Reader’s Digest visited 50 dentists with his x-rays. Almost all of them gave him a different diagnosis. The diagnosis and treatment recommendation a person receives seemed to him to depend on the dentist that a person went to. Not only that, he received quotes ranging from $460 to $29,850. For many patients, this is old news. For many dentists, this makes still-uncomfortable reading. Many dentists were comfortable with the status quo but the global pandemic shattered their belief that everything was fine.
One reason for optimism that AI dentistry is here to say is simple economics. Many dental practices have been absorbed into larger dental service organizations (DSO) owned by private equity and other institutional investors. The cause of this is that even dentists can benefit from economies of scale. One advantage of being part of a bigger organization is that a dental practice’s data becomes more meaningful because it’s part of a bigger pool of data. The bigger the pool of data, the more meaningful the insights that AI can derive. This means that AI can be more helpful for dentists working within DSOs. This creates a virtuous cycle where the usefulness of AI drives further use of it, making its insights even better, leading to even more use. For many dentists, adopting AI is part of the package when they become part of a DSO.
The fact is, AI has the same diagnostic skill of a well trained dentist. Many dental insurers are using AI to validate insurance claims. This means that there is pressure on dentists to use Ai so that they do not find themselves struggling to get a claim through. This means that patients will now be able to enjoy a level of diagnostic consistency that was not possible in 1997. Already, when you visit a cosmetic dentist, they are able to give you a diagnosis and quality of care that was unimaginable in 1997. It will only get better.
As adoption of AI increases, the diagnostic skill of AI will eventually exceed that of human dentists. As we said, the insights that AI develops are a function of the quality and volume of data available to it. So the more that it is used, the better it gets. We have also said that AI is already as good as a skilled dentist. So we are looking at a future where the quality of dental care will rise as a result of AI.
The future of AI in dentistry is bright.