An AI Assist?

Artificial Intelligence has made our lives easier in a lot of ways; Alexa can turn on our TVs and dishwashers, cars are driving themselves, and robots have long been in operating rooms helping to perform surgeries. But, the benefits of AI are also being seen in a new frontier: dentistry.

Researchers at the Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence, Tampere University Hospital, Planmeca and the Alan Turing Institute put AI technology for dental implants to the test in a recent study. Their goal was to see if machine learning can assist dentists in placing implants and determining the best size of dental implant to use.

Why AI? 

The lower jaw is a very complex structure, and when placing dental implants, which are surgically placed into the jaw bone, dentists need to know the precise location of the mandibular canal, the space on both sides of the lower jaw that houses the alveolar nerve. Typically, to locate this and other structures, providers use X-ray or computerized tomography (CT) scans, but this can be a lengthy and difficult process.

Which is where the Finnish researchers come in. They hypothesized that using AI could make placing dental implants easier by accurately showing the exact location of mandibular canals. The researchers trained their AI machine using information collected by 3D cone beam CT (CBCT) scans.

The results of putting their theory to the test were positive: Using the data collected by the CBCT, researchers were able to locate the mandibular canals with greater accuracy than using statistical shape models commonly used to locate the mandibular canals.

Their method worked well for individuals who did not have special cases or have medical conditions such as osteoporosis, but the researchers believe that future studies could help to treat more complex cases, too.

The Future of Dentistry

The Finnish researchers are not seeking to replace humans, but to assist them in order to reduce complications and improve results.

The thought of using advanced technology is exciting to dentists like Sean Endsley of Waco, Texas.

‘Each year, we see better and better technology designed to increase patient comfort and improve patient outcomes,’ he said.

Source: Aalto University. ‘AI to make dentists’ work easier.’ ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 April 2020.