Dentists have wondered when the newest technologies that have contributed to communication, manufacturing and software development will begin to make their mark in dental care. Until recently, the utilization of artificial intelligence (AI) in dentistry was largely untapped because of the difficulty of transferring this amazing technology to real-life solutions. Now, however, AI is enabling the delivery of precision-fit crowns — directly from the innovative dental lab or the next-generation in-office mill. This is accomplished through generative adversarial networks, or GANs.
In the past, to design a CAD/CAM crown, the technician would begin by using one standard template chosen from a limited library. But because there are many variables in teeth, the challenge was in producing each new crown to suit the needs of the individual patient, with a narrow scope of information available to create the design.
Researchers recognized that if they could capture all the important data that is implicitly in each doctor-accepted crown — and store the information and constantly add to it, so that a growing number of successful crowns are the basis for design — it could improve the precision, functionality and accuracy of restorations. The concept for AI-produced restoration design was born.
The cloud allows to compile and store case data in a central location. To date more than 3 million cases has been aggregated into the cloud, and this, along with data on natural tooth anatomy, provides the basis for training deep neural networks that leverage practically unlimited computing power available.
Esthetics are also measured by evaluating the potentially limitless volume of data available on dental anatomy. AI algorithms assess the variations available in the database, producing realistic esthetics for crowns that blend in with existing dentition.
When a case is sent to Laboratories for fabrication, either digitally via an intraoral scanner or as a conventional impression that’s scanned at the lab, advanced laboratory software receives the digital impression file. This software turns that impression file into a request, which is sent to the cloud for analysis. The software automatically labels the tooth, inserting the tooth ID, and checks for any discrepancies that might need verification. Based on complex algorithms, through AI guidance an ideal crown proposal is generated from the database of digital crown designs, natural tooth anatomy and biological data. From there, a lab technician verifies the design and makes any necessary adjustments before it’s sent for milling. The doctor can then accept the crown proposal with or without adjustments before milling the restoration.
Artificial intelligence is helping to improve the consistency, functionality and esthetics of the crowns prescribed for the patients. As we look to the future, AI will play a significant role in making restorative dentistry more affordable and predictable. Seeing how far the technology has come in just a few years, it’s evident that AI will define how we can efficiently operate our practice, and how our profession can treat patients using the most effective, state-of-the-art restorative technology available.