With artificial intelligence, or AI, the future of dentistry has arrived. While AI will never replace the personal care and attention you provide your patients, this technology can help you become more consistent and efficient, and can act as an objective second opinion when you’re faced with difficult or ambiguous decisions.

What exactly is AI, anyway?

While AI may conjure images of gleaming robots and sentient computers, the reality is far less dramatic. AI uses computer software to analyze large sets of information and find patterns in them. As it gathers more and more information, it gradually learns to assess situations and then make informed decisions or predict outcomes.

Interesting. So how can AI help me?

AI can improve your ability to detect dental conditions quickly and accurately, and can consistently provide you with appropriate treatments options. So far, AI has proven useful for several applications:

What else can AI help me with?

On the administrative side, AI can help speed up the claims process and help you better serve your patients.

When you submit a claim to an insurance company, the insurance company must determine whether your procedure will be covered. Inconsistency and disagreements during this process can cause frustration and delays, which can in turn lead to frustration and delays in treatment for your patients.

AI can analyze data far more quickly and accurately than a person can. Its ability to make quick, impartial decisions ― particularly when analyzing oral imagery ― takes the ambiguity and human subjectiveness out of the claims process. This brings speed, consistency and reliability to the decision-making process, which means less headaches for you and your patients.

AI can also help insurers detect bad actors to help ensure dental care remains available and affordable for your clients. By being able to examine and compare thousands of x‑rays, AI can quickly detect resubmission fraud and overdiagnosis, and distinguish fraud patterns from honest errors, such as when a dental office mistakenly submits the wrong image with a claim.

This sounds promising. Does AI have any drawbacks?

A few. Much of the dental patient data that AI need to make accurate diagnoses isn’t as available or accessible as some other data because it’s protected or confidential. That means these data sets are often relatively small compared with other datasets used for AI applications and may be incomplete.

Also, the data that is available may result in a bias by the AI program. For example, datasets obtained from hospitals, where patients often visit due to an injury, dental emergency or severe dental conditions, might suggest that patients are sicker than they actually are. Conversely, data from wearable devices such as smartwatches, which are often worn by healthy young people and athletes, might lead the AI to assume that patients are unusually healthy. This bias can also lead to AI overlooking certain groups of underrepresented patients.

Still, the technology shows great potential, and advances in AI promise to make it an integral part of your dental practice. While the technology is still emerging, AI may help you to serve your patients more efficiently, consistently and confidently than ever.