A recent survey from Dentaly has shed light on how the use of artificial intelligence (AI) within the sector is transforming dentistry and having an impact on patient care.

The survey revealed that already 35% of the licensed dentists questioned have implemented the technology within their practice. And of those who have deployed AI, 77% agree that they have seen positive results from it.

Overall 81% of the US dentists had a positive attitude towards AI applications in dentistry, with 62% agreeing that some of the operational tasks in dental clinics could be carried out by AI. The respondents felt that AI held value for enhancing their clinical practice, streamlining workflow and improving patient outcomes.

The most significant application for AI for those dentists who had already implemented the technology was image analysis (51%), followed by diagnosis (43%) and treatment planning (38%).

The top-ranking benefits of AI in dentistry were named by the Dentaly report as: faster and more efficient workflows (76%), predictive analytics for patient outcomes (48%), improved accuracy in diagnosis (40%), enhanced treatment planning (35%) and personalised treatment options (20%).

Highlighting security concerns

Despite the potential AI holds to revolutionise the industry, there are still concerns – particularly over the privacy and security of both patient data and their own practice. Dental practitioners expressed concerns about the potential breach of relevant laws and how this could compromise their practice.

While data privacy and security top the list of concerns (67%), it jointly shares this position with worries over the reliability and accuracy of AI systems. Other concerns include ethical considerations (52%), the cost of implementing AI technologies (43%) and potential job displacement (33%).

Brendan Macdonald, CEO, Digital Smile Design, said: “Overall generative AI has the potential to transform the dental industry by improving the accuracy and efficiency of diagnosis and treatment planning, streamlining care and automating routine tasks. However, there are still limitations to the widespread application of AI in dentistry, and more research and development are needed to improve the accuracy and reliability of AI algorithms.

“AI cannot replace dental professionals; the solutions and systems are far from being able to do. AI should be viewed as a complementary asset to assist dental professionals in their work.”

AI and the future of dentistry

When it comes to understanding how AI will impact the future of dentistry, over half (52%) felt that they would see incremental improvements in current practices. Close to a third (29%) felt there would be limited impact on dentistry, while 10% felt they would see revolutionary changes in the field.

Overall, amongst the respondents, there was a general openness to exploring and incorporating AI advancements within their practices. Ten percent said they were very likely to adopt AI technologies, while a further 47% said they were somewhat likely. None of the respondents perceived it was very unlikely they would implement the tech within the next five years.

One year ago Clyde Munro Dental Group became the first dental service in Scotland to trial AI from Manchester Imaging, to improve the accuracy of the prevention and diagnosis of early tooth decay.