How AI can help dentists with early detection of tooth decay

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An artificial intelligence (AI) platform could allow dentists and dental students to read radiograms (X-rays) with higher accuracy, helping them to better detect tooth decay and gum diseases.

The platform, led by the University of Surrey in the UK, in partnership with King’s College London, Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust, and Oral Health Foundation, allows an AI model to recognise abnormalities in anatomical structures.

The project aims to provide a one-stop solution for collecting and annotating dental radiographs and assisting with disease diagnosis while building on how best to implement this in a clinical setting.

The venture has received £1.55 million in grant funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).

Yunpeng Li, senior lecturer in artificial intelligence and the project lead at the University of Surrey, said: “The technology could save valuable time and money if rolled out more widely, enabling dentists to have abnormalities pop up in front of them and read radiograms with higher accuracy.

“This next phase of the project is incredibly exciting as we work collaboratively to build a working prototype suitable for real-life clinical settings. Efforts so far have included gathering a representative set of annotated radiograms and training a custom-built AI model on dental disease detection. We look forward to comprehensive outcomes over the next few years.”

Owen Addison, professor of oral rehabilitation and the joint project lead at King’s College London, said: “AI systems that support more accurate diagnosis and clinical decision-making will help patients, but they must be trustworthy. We look forward to supporting this project by providing dental expertise and consideration of the needs of end-users.”

Jim Cornall is editor of Deeptech Digest and publisher at Ayr Coastal Media. He is an award-winning writer, editor, photographer, broadcaster, designer and author. Contact Jim here.