Untitled Design 7

How AI can (and will) impact your dental practice

April 25, 2023
Dr. Kyle Stanley, the chief clinical officer of Pearl, joined Dr. Joshua Austin to talk about where artificial intelligence in dentistry stands now, and why he thinks every practice needs to adopt it.

Dr. Kyle Stanley has been a leader in dentistry throughout his entire career. His latest pursuit is one that interests me greatly. As the chief clinical officer of Pearl, an artificial intelligence company for dentistry, he joined me to talk about how AI can impact a dental practice.

Joshua Austin: Dr. Stanley, for years I have known you as a cosmetic and implant dentist in Beverly Hills, California. I know you’re probably still doing some clinical dentistry, but you have a new role I’d love to hear more about because I find it fascinating!

Kyle Stanley: I am the cofounder and chief clinical officer of Pearl, an AI company focused on solving difficult problems in dentistry. I have always been fascinated by technology in dentistry, and I believe AI is the next big revolution in our profession.

You might also be interested in: The true impact of 3D printing

JA: Tell me about where AI stands in dentistry today.

KS: AI really started in dentistry with CAD/CAM restoration design. The next big use was computer-vision-based remote monitoring for ortho patients. AI is still a developing technology in that area, but it has already significantly improved the orthodontics workflow.

AI is also being used in some areas of smile design to automatically find facial features—pupils, corners of the mouth, lip lines—to size and place mock-ups. All these applications are still in fairly limited deployment, but chairside radiologic AI solutions are seeing extremely rapid adoption in dental practices worldwide, particularly in North America and Europe. This form of AI, which assists with everyday radiologic diagnostics, is what will give most clinicians their first experience with AI. The other dental AI applications are clinical tools requiring FDA clearance—a hurdle that has delayed their entry to the market.

JA: Where do we stand on FDA clearance now?

KS: This year, the FDA cleared automatic AI detection of several key pathologic and other clinically significant conditions found in radiographs, including caries, periapical radiolucencies, margin discrepancies, calculus, and existing restorations. Doctors use these AI systems as diagnostic aids, which of course improves their clinical performance.

JA: Having AI catch things we might miss is really great. What’s the next level of AI contribution?

KS: Another palpable impact is in patient communication and practice management. It makes case presentation extremely digestible for patients and, because it can review historical imagery in conjunction with PMS data, it can surface some pretty amazing actionable insights into clinical trends and patient health that weren’t remotely possible without AI.

What’s so cool about that is, because people go to the dentist more than any other doctor and because radiographic is a core feature of dental well-care, the first place that most patients will experience AI in their health-care journey will be in the dental chair!

JA: I think AI in dentistry will expand to things we can’t yet imagine. I think the problem is that initial jump. If a dentist is reading this and thinking that AI sounds really cool but wonders how they’d even go about adding it to their practice, what would you tell them?

KS: The learning curve is very short, especially for chairside AI. It’s more or less plug-and-play, and the software is totally self-explanatory. There certainly are best practices that can help clinicians get the most out of the software in terms of patient communication and case presentation. But compared to many new technologies that dentists have added in the past decade, AI is incredibly simple.

Also: move quickly! It is pretty clear that AI will be a basic utility in dentistry, the same way it is in so many other areas of everyday life. It’s too good, offers too many advantages, and is too inexpensive to imagine a future of dentistry without AI. There’s a plainly observable first-mover advantage with new technology in dentistry, so if you integrate AI now, you get the clinical benefits that will eventually drive the technology of every dental office around the world, as well as the commercial benefits of being seen as an early adopter.

Obviously, we want clinical interests to be our primary driver, but we’re also businesses and there is enormous value gained from customers’ perception of our work. Being cutting edge is just good marketing. There are dentists who started doing veneers or using intraoral scanners or digital smile design way before others; they became well-known for this, and even 30 years later are still considered pioneers or innovators. They don’t need to be amazing clinicians, but their name and notoriety have lasted for decades because of the first-mover advantage.

In terms of how to get started from a more practical standpoint, I would advise clinicians to contact AI vendors and get demos, select one to move forward with, and then start the integration process of getting AI plugged into their imaging systems and workflow. It usually takes about a week to get up and running, but it depends on how complex a setup is and whether there’s an IT person.

AI is a very low-touch and high-yield technology. Unlike other technologies, such as intraoral scanners, microscopes, or lasers, AI has immediate ROI and a very shallow learning curve. We all know that we dentists are creatures of habit, but the change management that has to happen in the practice is minor.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the April 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

Sponsored Recommendations

Clinical Study: OraCare Reduced Probing Depths 4450% Better than Brushing Alone

Good oral hygiene is essential to preserving gum health. In this study the improvements seen were statistically superior at reducing pocket depth than brushing alone (control ...

Clincial Study: OraCare Proven to Improve Gingival Health by 604% in just a 6 Week Period

A new clinical study reveals how OraCare showed improvement in the whole mouth as bleeding, plaque reduction, interproximal sites, and probing depths were all evaluated. All areas...

Chlorine Dioxide Efficacy Against Pathogens and How it Compares to Chlorhexidine

Explore our library of studies to learn about the historical application of chlorine dioxide, efficacy against pathogens, how it compares to chlorhexidine and more.

Whitepaper: The Blueprint for Practice Growth

With just a few changes, you can significantly boost revenue and grow your practice. In this white paper, Dr. Katz covers: Establishing consistent diagnosis protocols, Addressing...