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Are AI dental checkups the next best thing to an actual dentist?

Are AI dental checkups the next best thing to an actual dentist?

Getting an instant artificial intelligence (AI) dental check-up on your phone has always been the stuff of science fiction. But now you can, thanks to an ingenious new free AI app called Pearlii – a self-help tool that can accurately detect potential tooth decay and cavities. Pearlii was developed by Australian oral health specialist Dr Kyle Turner. As a child, Dr Turner grew up in a remote area without local access to dental care. As a result, he ended up paying thousands in dental treatment costs as an adult. Poor access to dental care has always been a problem in many remote Australian communities. That’s why Dr. Turner decided to improve this long-standing health inequality by developing an AI powered phone app that could automatically check your teeth and gums.

How can AI apps accurately detect tooth decay and cavities?

AI powered apps utilise a machine learning algorithm that is specifically developed to detect any signs of tooth decay, cavities (caries) and gum issues. With the Pearlii AI app, you simply download it for free from Google Play or Apple App Store. Once you open the app, you answer a few questions about your oral health situation and then take 5 guided photos of your teeth. After the AI works its magic, you’ll be able to view an instant results page. This displays an overview that includes each of the 5 images with potential problem areas outlined by a colour coded line. The five colour codes are used to indicate the presence of the following oral conditions:

  1. Decay
  2. Stains
  3. Tartar
  4. White spots
  5. Red gums

* Screenshot images courtesy of Pearlii Pty Ltd

Can AI dental checkups take the place of a dentist?

No, AI dental check-ups can’t take the place of a dentist because there will always be a need for in-clinic dental care and treatment. However, AI apps such as Pearlii can help people with limited time, poor access to dental care or during a Covid lockdown. When the app detects an oral anomaly, it can advise and help incentivise the user to book an actual dental appointment for professional treatment. Remember that Pearlii is NOT a diagnostic tool. It is a screening and educational tool only. You’ll still need to go see your dentist if an oral problem is detected for a proper check-up and diagnosis.

What kind of phone do you need for Pearlii’s AI app?

You’ll need a smartphone with Android version 5.0 (or later) or iPhone 5S (or later). Where can I download Pearlii? Apple iOS users can click here to access the Apple Store. Android users can click here to access the Google Play Store. ‍

Modern dentistry gears up for the digital age

Modern dentistry gears up for the digital age

Since the mid-90s, when advanced CAD (computer-aided design) systems were first used to help create crown materials, digital dentistry has developed rapidly. The latest digital dental hardware includes intra-oral scanning, dental sensor technology, robotics, CAD/CAM and 3D printing.

As a result, a lot of traditional manual dental processes have been, or are about to be, taken over by these emerging digital dental technologies, in the near future.

For example, the process of a traditional crowning procedure usually takes two appointments. It involves making moulds of your teeth, outsourcing manual crown fabrication to dental labs, and wearing a temporary crown in the meantime. Total time: approx. 2 weeks.

Now, there is the quicker option, of a single dental session, for a single crown restoration, utilising CAD and CAM (computer-aided manufacturing). How is this possible?

First, a digital scan of your mouth is imported directly into computer software that will generate the ideal 3D shape of your crown as a 3D file. This 3D file is then imported into a milling machine which carves the crown out of a ceramic block automatically. Then, all that your dentist needs to do, is – bond the newly fabricated crown to your prepared tooth. Total time: 2 hours.

And it doesn’t stop there. Scalpel, needles, use of anaesthetic, drills and sutures are gradually being replaced by lasers. Lasers result in less pain, discomfort and trauma during your dental procedure.

Digital dentistry will also assist your dentist. They won’t need to rely solely on steady hands and an eagle eye for dental procedures that have no margin for error.

Perhaps in the not too distant future, your check ups and dental treatment won’t even be performed by a human dentist, but by dental robots managed by dentists.

3D-printed teeth kill 99% of oral bacteria instantly – before brushing

3D-printed teeth kill 99% of oral bacteria instantly – before brushing

Dutch researchers from the University of Groningen, Netherlands, have created an antimicrobial plastic material for use in 3D-printed replacement teeth, crowns, veneers and orthodontic devices. The new material kills 99% of oral germs and bacteria – before you brush and floss your teeth. The team of researchers conducted research and development of a new antimicrobial composite polymers because dental implant related infections posed a major health risk world-wide. This type of infection is the leading cause of the failure of implanted dental devices.  For example, dental restorations that are damaged by bacterial infiltration can result in secondary cavities beneath the restoration.

It is estimated that over 20 billion dollars are spent annually in the United States by dental patients – to replace composite resin restorations that have failed for this reason. Professor Andreas Hermann and his team added antimicrobial ammonium salts to existing dental resin polymers. The positive charge in these salts disrupted the negatively-charged cell lining or membrane of the bacteria. This caused the bacterial cells to rupture and die.

And while the new material can kill bacteria on contact, it is harmless to human cells. To test the antimicrobial properties of the new polymers, the research team  coated 3D-printed dental objects in a mix of saliva and the Streptococcus mutans bactirium which causes tooth decay. Incredibly, the team found the polymers killed over 99% of the bacteria. In comparison, less than 1% were eliminated by a control sample with no added salts.

While further testing still needs to be carried out for long-term effects and compatibility with toothpaste, these new polymers are shaping up to be a  game-changer in the general medical and dental industries.  Reference Research paper: “3D-Printable Antimicrobial Composite Resins”, 10/2015, University of Groningen and University Medical Center Groningen 9713 AV, Groningen, The Netherlands.