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    Why artificial intelligence is the future of dentistry

    AI is already taking over the medical landscape, and soon it will affect dentistry.


    While speaking to dentists, whether in solo practice or group practice, they are typically unconscious to the tremendous impact AI will have on their world. Clinging to the notion that only dentists can diagnose, treatment plan and deliver dental care is simply ill-advised. With AI able to better diagnose and treatment plan, with AI able to identify best practices, with AI able to manage risk, with AI better able to handle patient scheduling and finance, dentists need to wake up to the fact that dentistry and dental practices will be dramatically altered by AI. AI is a future that’s time has come.

    AI cannot be stopped. Machine to machine learning is here. Computers do not need human beings to learn; they can now communicate directly with each other. The speed of learning will increase logarithmically. As AI continues its expansion into medicine, it will naturally become more and more infused into dentistry, especially with the oral-systemic relationships firmly established and pushed along by the rapidly rising healthcare costs of treating chronic diseases.

    For example, depending on a Type 1 diabetic’s medical records, the severity of disease, compliance, management of risk factors, oral radiographic images and inputted clinical data, it is apparent that AI will ultimately determine treatment planning and frequency of care. Over time, it will determine the best dentists to treat these patients. 

    More from the author: Why organized dentistry needs to change in order to survive

    In the U.S. alone, there are reportedly 3 million Type 1 diabetic patients. When the healthcare system can realize a savings of approximately $5,000 per diabetic patient per year by the use of AI, what impact will that have on dentistry? When an insurance company can deny certain procedures submitted in a predetermination because AI says so, what impact will that have on the dental practice?

    It would be smart for dentistry to become fully engaged with AI, but once again, dentistry is not that smart about seeing the future and getting ahead of it. Rather than taking the lead in utilizing AI, dentistry will operate as they always have, which is waiting for the other shoe to drop.  

    Dentistry will remain asleep about AI and therefore not notice that one or two large players like Heartland or Pacific or payers like Delta or Aetna or their representative organizations like the ADSO or NADP are heavily investing in AI. These entities realize AI is the future. They understand AI will decrease costs, increase efficiencies, generate better outcomes, and increase value for patients and employers. And these entities have the money to invest in AI for their members.  

    These entities will follow the path of understanding and utilizing AI, while solo practices and their political organizations will remain disengaged from AI. And, as AI is firmly held in the hands of DSOs and insurance companies,  AI will put another “nail in the coffin” of the solo practice.

    As medicine goes, so goes dentistry. As patients and the public become more and more aware of the benefits of AI in medicine, as dentists are forced to become more integrated into primary care, AI will move from the sidelines of dentistry into its core. Today, no dental practice can run without practice management software. The same will be true of AI in dentistry and the dental practice of tomorrow.

    Dr. Marc Cooper
    Dr. Cooper's professional career includes private periodontist, academician, researcher, teacher, practice management consultant, ...


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