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AI to revolutionise orthodontic care

Smart phone app monitors patients’ dental treatment progress.

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SydneyConnect Image: Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to revolutionise orthodontic care

Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to revolutionise orthodontic care at Sydney Dental Hospital, with researchers successfully piloting a smart phone app which remotely monitors patients’ treatment, cutting travel and wait times.

“Our aim is to roll out the use of the latest digital technology to provide comprehensive orthodontic care remotely, particularly to patients in regional and rural New South Wales,” Professor Ali Darendeliler, the head of the hospital’s Orthodontics Department, said.

There are about 7,000 people on public orthodontic waiting list at Sydney Dental Hospital, which is one of two major providers of public oral health services in NSW.

Many people are unable to access care unless they travel to the hospital and, as a result of the length of the waiting list, their orthodontic problems may become complex and require expensive and invasive treatment or surgery.

The Monitoring, Assessing Dental (MAD) pilot study, explored whether the use of an app that incorporates AI would result in orthodontists being able to supervise care, enabling patients to receive treatment in a more convenient and timely way.

Professor Darendeliler is leading the pilot study which he’s undertaking with Hui Theng Chong, Mary Hatem, Geetika Sachdeva, Dr Shilpi Ajwani and Dr Oyku Dalci (pictured).

They selected 30 patients, under the age of 18 and who are awaiting treatment to correct a poorly aligned jaw and/or crooked teeth, to participate in the study.

Two dentists took photographs, radiographs and 3D scans of each patient’s mouth and teeth and an orthodontist used the records to devise a treatment plan. The 3D intraoral scans were used to get customised plastic sequential aligners made for each patient.

The patients regularly took photographs on their own smart phones of their teeth, using a special scan box, and uploaded them to the app which used AI to analyse them.

Data is sent via the app to the orthodontist overseeing the patient’s treatment to evaluate their progress.

“The AI detects tooth movements as small as 0.1mm, which is not visible to the human eye. So, it tells us if the aligner has worked and if the patient can progress to the next stage in their treatment,” Dr Dalci, said.

The study’s preliminary results are positive, with patients’ progressing as planned, provided the treatment plan is followed.

“The technology allows us to assess and treat patients remotely and in a timely way, with dental hygienists providing them with on-site support. Patients don’t need to travel, miss school, spend money or miss hours from work,” Dr Dalci said.

The study was showcased at the 2021 NSW Public Oral Health Conference, hosted by Sydney Local Health District, in partnership with Western Sydney LHD and the Centre for Oral Health Strategy NSW.

The conference is a platform for leading oral health care experts, researchers, practitioners and educators to discuss practices, treatment, care and innovation in the field of dentistry.

“This is an efficient way to provide comprehensive orthodontic care to patients, especially those in regional and rural areas. It has the capacity to revolutionise the provision of public orthodontic care not only in NSW but in Australia,” Professor Darendeliler said.

Professor Darendeliler now plans to apply for funding via a Medical Research Future Fund grant so his team is able to turn its research findings into clinical practice at the hospital.