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Is this a game-changing technology for dentistry?

Colleagues,

A press release that came across my desk today particularly caught my attention. It relates to Straumann acquiring an interest in a company called Dental Monitoring. I share this with you as I believe it could be of interest to all in the oral health care sector. My sensitivity to the profound implications of rapid technological change for healthcare in general and oral health care in particular has been heightened through my recent involvement with a CDA Task Force on the Future of the Profession. I will tell you more about that a little later, but first, I invite you to scan through a couple of paragraphs from the press release, just below.

John

 

From the press release…

“Dental Monitoring has developed and successfully commercialized a system that enables dentists to monitor the progress of orthodontic/dental treatments without the patient having to visit the practice. Using a smart phone and a dedicated app, the patient takes pictures of his/her teeth, which are uploaded into DM’s system. Artificial intelligence is used to compare the images with previous data and can detect even minor changes. The system then notifies the dentist, allowing for timely intervention and efficient treatment adjustments.

In addition to avoiding unnecessary check-up visits, the system can also accelerate orthodontic treatments by identifying the point at which the patient is ready to progress to the next corrective step. It also checks for any relapse during the post-treatment retention phase. Other advantages include time savings for the dentist, enhanced standard of care, as well as convenience and peace of mind for the patient (see video clip on www.dental-monitoring.com).

The system is already sold in several markets and has been developed further to monitor oral hygiene, detecting decay, fracture, restoration defects, gum recession, inflammation, infections and other conditions. Additional applications, for instance in combination with intra oral scanners in the practice or for monitoring dental implants are possible. Artificial intelligence technology, could therefore support the full spectrum of Straumann’s activities including corrective, preventative, restorative and replacement dentistry.”

 

When you read this text, what thoughts come to mind? I would love to hear your perspective. John

 

Useful Links

You can read the full Straumann press release here.

If you are really curious about the potential (rather fantastic according to some) implications of artificial intelligence and machine learning on the professions in future, I highly recommend watching this YouTube video featuring Richard and Daniel Susskind talking about the future of the professions.

5 comments

  1. Peter Stevenson-Moore

    If similar technology were to apply to medicine, could we eliminate waiting times in doctor’s offices, and might we discover that we actually have a sufficiency of qualified physicians rather than the presumed deficiency?

  2. Vasant Ramlaggan

    Seems like a great idea!

    On one side, we will need less in-office visits. On the other side, we’ll have to do more IT stuff. I’d love to see how this develops as I have numerous patients who travel a lot. This could make it easier to do treatment on them.

  3. I’ve been using DM for a while now and it is a useful adjunct to an orthodontic practice, especially when treating young people away at university or patients who leave for several months on work junkets or sabbaticals. It is limited in scope, however. Photographs simply do not give the dimensional sense to evaluate orthodontic progress properly. The best they can do is tell you if aligners are tracking, give you an overall sense of where the patient is at, and maybe in specific cases progress of very specific movements. When the day comes that we can give the patient a personal intra-oral scanner to generate 3D renderings, then we’ll really have something groundbreaking.
    Oh, and Peter, that would require that the physician’s staff actually valued and respected patients’ time.

  4. I can see the value in this technology being used to monitor orthodontic treatment progression. Using it for most other dental applications, however, scares me. There is more to diagnosis than what a scan can show us and I feel that many patients would avoid dental visits if the scan did not show anything they felt was significant. Also, I can only imagine the chaos that could result from dental benefit providers declining coverage for treatments that did not show anything on the scan but were deemed necessary by diagnosis by an actual dentist!

  5. Every day we receive pictures from our patients asking for an opinion on their current problem.
    We used to advise patients that it is inappropriate for us to make diagnosis over the phone.
    This seems to be rapidly changing?
    A mentor of mine once taught me that diagnosis is a very personal communication between Dr and Patient.
    It is a process that involves many cognitive stages and all our senses, especially hearing, seeing, touch and smell.
    I think that the rush to embrace AI could easily corrupt and dilute the diagnostic process.
    In this case artificial intelligence may not be a synonym for higher intelligence. Be careful for what you wish for!

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