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Preparing For Dentistry’s AI Summit


Margaret Scarlett, DMD, chief science and technology officer for Digital Transformation Partners, joins Dental Products Report editorial director Noah Levine to discuss artificial intelligence in dentistry, and the upcoming AI Velocity Summit hosted by Digital Transformation Partners and Dental Products Report.

AI Velocity Summit 2023 logo graphic with tagline

The buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) is thunderous and seems to keep growing in volume and scope. This is true for the world at large, as well as for the dental industry. AI technologies seem to be integrated into every product and service, but just what AI is and how it’s being applied is not always clear.

With those questions in mind Digital Transformation Partners and Dental Products Report created the AI Velocity Summit. This live event in Austin, Texas, September 20-21, is designed to bring leaders in dentistry together to discuss AI opportunities, risks, applications, and potential guidelines, regulations, or limitations.

Ahead of this event, Margaret Scarlett, DMD, chief science and technology officer for Digital Transformation Partners, and DPR editorial director Noah Levine discussed AI in dentistry and the upcoming summit.

Noah Levine: To jump right in, what is the current state of AI in the dental industry?

Margaret Scarlett: There's so much going on in AI right now, I don't know where to start. We have over 200 different products that are either under review at the FDA, or already cleared or approved or exempt from approval. So in a very short period of time to have 200 different companies and 70 investment groups who are getting into this is kind of incredible.

NL: Why do you think there are so many AI companies and AI applications coming to the dental space right now?

MS: I think part of it is dental is part of the larger culture. I mean, we've just seen an explosion, how many hundreds of millions of people are now on ChatGPT? It's really remarkable. ChatGPT launched last November, and already, they’ve had several hundred million users. So, these large language models have put a greater focus on the AI technology, different than the AI used for dental patient intake, dental imaging or for validation of claims or adjudication of claims.

Since we use more types of AI than large language models, it's caused us to reimagine oral care on how we might be more efficient, more productive, and utilize the best of AI to make improvements for payers, for providers, for patients, and, even for even supply chain issues. We're seeing a lot of companies who are moving into AI with a supply chain focus. In all of its uses, AI is helping people do these routine tasks much more easily, and I think that's part of the reason it's been so much of an explosion of AI.

The second thing to that's happened is in healthcare there's a lot of emphasis on AI being utilized for imaging purposes. There's been a lot of focus in dentistry on reading images much more reliably—maybe not necessarily more accurately, the jury's still out on that—but definitely more reliably. AI systems don't get tired. AI systems do not get tired, like most of us, are at 5 o'clock, after they've been working since 7 am with their morning huddle. AI doesn't get tired, and it can do things quickly, much more quickly, on what they are trained to do than humans.

NL: You've touched on a few of the benefits that are out there waiting to be realized, but what are some of the stumbling blocks and pitfalls that could prevent the dental industry from realizing AI’s benefits at a large scale?

MS: Well, one is workflow and, and costs. I mean, who's going to pay for AI? Usually, it's the providers, and that's just another cost the providers have to absorb at a time when inflation is high and every purchase is being scrutinized. So, the cost is one of the barriers. I think the other one is really the adoption of it. AI can really help with productivity, but it requires some changes in workflow.

With AI image analysis integrated into a practice workflow, I think patients will have more confidence in what we say. Patients couldn't see the little x-rays with a tiny shadow and see what providers see. Now, patients can view images on a big TV screen, and the patient's sees the little triangles, or squares, or lines, or whatever that software uses, to indicate a finding. They are seeing this like the dentist or hygienist, either at the same time or after the provider assesses the image. It is a game changer for patient acceptance!

Another risk is the fact that most of the algorithms that we have right now are static. Dynamic models continue to learn and the algorithms will change. What we're seeing now that's been cleared or approved by FDA are static algorithms, but dynamic models are a big area of interest. Dynamic is the future and FDA has asked for guidance on what to tell patients and providers about dynamic AI models. Dynamic AI models are continually learning models, but there is also increased risk for bias. How do we provide guardrails and guidance for continuously learning models? Do we need post-market surveillance for safety or AI algorithms that are Class II or III devices? We should talk about this.

We know that both static and dynamic models, there are risks the algorithms can be biased, or the training data can exclude certain demographics, like gender, race, or age. These risks also hurt adoption of AI if that occurs, like it did with the Epic AI Sepsis model. This model failed to identify more than two-thirds of sepsis in hospitals, according to published reports. We've seen that on the medical side, hopefully, we'll avoid that in dentistry. That's part of the reason we're supporting the AI Velocity Summit on September 21st, so we can have some of these conversations to talk about the guardrails and guidance that we need for monitoring ourselves, and the best ways to protect our patients and provide the best oral care possible.

NL: Can you tell me a little bit about the AI Velocity Summit event? What is it, and who is it for?

MS: So, this is a Leaders Conference. It's not for everyone, it's for leaders in all parts of the dental industry with an interest or a stake in AI. Leaders in the investment community who are investing in AI now really only have a very small amount of investments in the oral health space. We hope to increase that, from about 1% to 4%.

We’re looking to connect leaders from dental support organizations who are rolling out AI solutions across a wide number of practices, as well as medical processionals looking to create connections with the dental industry. Payors are using AI to detect fraudulent claims, with payors leveraging AI to verify treatment plans submitted and resolve claims more quickly. Payor leaders can suggest their support. Providers want to provide the best oral care. Patients want quicker validation of benefits, and prompt payment of claims for dental bills. Investors want to invest wisely in AI products and services. AI can be a win-win-win-win. There is a 360-degree view of AI that encompasses everything from supply chain to patient intake, patient treatment, and payment of claims to patient recall visits.

We want to have those leaders all coming together to dialogue on these issues, and more. The purpose of the summit is to come out at the end of the day and have some actions steps, lessons learned and next steps.

During the event we'll have 6 different panels that will talk about a variety of topics that are of interest. At the end of the conference, we're going to have lessons learned about what we know and what we agree upon. We'll also have a list of next steps.

This is going to be in a talk show style format, so we'll be able to talk candidly about what we know, and honestly, what we don't know, in an open forum that is casual, but also allows us to exchange important information.

NL: Is there anything else people should know about AI in dentistry and the upcoming AI Velocity Summit in Austin on September 21, 2023?

MS: The scale of oral disease can only be met with the scale of technology. This conference is about reimaging oral prevention, care and treatment with AI and technology to finally meet our national goals and objectives. We're just at the beginning of this new technology, AI. If we get this right now, we can avoid the mistakes that have already been made elsewhere. That's what I'm really excited about, so that we have this national conversation with leaders about AI in a reimagined oral care system.

This is going to be, "The Room Where it Happens." We're going to have lots of time for networking so that we can have candid discussions on the stage and off the stage and in this talk show format. We're very, very excited about the potential for AI to reimagine oral care to make it better for DSOs, payors, providers, patients and investors.

The AI Velocity Summit will be held September 20-21, 2023 at the Hyatt Regency in Austin, Texas.

For more information on the AI Velocity Summit or to register, click here.

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