Artificial Intelligence Software Improves Your Dental Practice
As you likely know, artificial intelligence for dentistry is already here.
But it’s kind of like the early years of Apple releasing their first smartphones. You’re either:
- in the group of people who need to see how others like the new tech before you buy…
- or you’re standing out in front of the store the morning of release to be the first to try it.
Unfortunately, with dental AI software, we don’t have a single item we can walk out of a store with and learn while watching TV at home.
AI in healthcare is a web of services that will infiltrate all aspects of care over time. It’s a learn-as-you-go and implement-as-you-see-fit solution to the disjointedness of office workflows.
If you’re that person who waited to see how others liked their smartphone before you bought one, you’ll likely need to see AI play out for a while before adopting it fully into your practice–fair enough.
We get it.
It’s a big shift for our healthcare system, but like electronic medical records and practice management software were only a few short decades ago, AI stands to dramatically improve the way we deliver healthcare.
And it’s ready for us to start using in our dental practices right now.
Like paperless charts, soon you’ll wonder how you ran your practice without it.
It also improves the way patients perceive care, helping them become more informed about their health, and improving their overall healthcare experience.
What is AI in Dental Software?
Dental software AI really isn’t different from AI in any industry, except that it’s applied to dentistry. Regardless of where it’s used, it reduces the amount of human effort required to perform tasks.
Artificial intelligence refers to the capability of machines to perform tasks that would otherwise be done by humans. 
We already use AI on a daily basis.
Google changes its recommendations based on your previous search history. Spotify recommends music using data from your previous song choices. We rely on voice recognition and navigation apps to get us from point A to point B and make suggestions to reduce driving time.
Artificial intelligence in dentistry uses algorithms to make predictions and decisions. This can be applied to:
- front office workflow to improve task prioritization.
- the claims adjudication process to reduce denials.
- digital imaging to assist in diagnostics.
So like Spotify knows the type of music you like and suggests what to listen to next, dental AI software like Dental Dash knows your front office tasks and makes suggestions on which tasks to prioritize.
We’ve put together a free downloadable ebook with steps to start using AI in your front office. You can download it below:
Why Does AI Matter in Dentistry?
It’s not a question of whether it will be used in healthcare or about its usefulness, but rather when it will be widely adopted. The resistance to adopting existing technologies into practice is usually centered around a few key factors:
- learning curve.
- time to implement.
- cost to implement.
- proof that it really will improve how we work.
Specifically when it comes to AI, there’s still a lot of unknown in the dental community.
- How much can it actually do?
- How does it fit into the daily routine of your dental office?
- Do we really need it?
Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture. Healthcare in general requires the collection of many, many data points. Each individual patient has a unique set of data points that when viewed together as a whole, tend to follow trends. Patterns are often evident.
Of course, you need a lot of data to be able to make assumptions about patterns and trends with enough confidence to make a diagnosis and present a treatment plan.
Human doctors spend years learning, understanding, and processing this data in their brains, honing their skill of extrapolating information to diagnose and treat.
After experiencing so many different scenarios and cases, it’s widely known that if you present a case to three different dentists, you’ll get three different treatment plans.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with different treatment plans, since there are several ways to skin a cat, so to speak, it can present issues when making a case to the insurance company.
The claims adjudication process is often frustrating as one procedure is approved while another denied. This is an area of dentistry that irks dentists and office managers alike and will benefit from the assistance of AI.
Teresa Duncan is an expert in revenue management for dentists. In an interview for Dentistry Today, she talks about how the current claims process isn’t very effective:
“We will do the work and then send in the claim. Then we end up having to justify why we did the work. So, we do all the justification on the back end, which is a terrible way of making sure you get paid for your services.” -Teresa Duncan
Here’s a link to read the full interview:
Using AI to interpret radiographs will aid in fewer insurance claims denials. There are a few dental AI companies with diagnostic and digital image-analyzing capabilities emerging on the scene.
Doctors might initially feel like AI is an attempt to take over their learned skill, but it’s actually a way to make sure the insurance company will agree with the diagnosis and treatment plan.
The treatment plan, as always, is up to the doctor, but using AI will give the patient an accurate estimate of their cost right away.
When patients know what insurance covers, they’re more likely to schedule their treatment right away.
How Dental AI Software Helps the Front Office
Like clinicians, the skill and knowledge of the dental office manager also improves with time and experience.
An office manager and staff who know the trends and patterns of the office, how to get a claim approved, and how to keep the schedule full are essential. AI can gather that knowledge and experience and use it to:
- improve the claims adjudication process, meaning that no matter who’s working in the front office, you’re less likely to have human error when it comes to submitting insurance claims.
- tell the front office which patients to call who can most likely fill a last minute opening.
- prioritize tasks for the front office, helping them work through their day more efficiently and with less stress.
All of the above means:
- increased insurance approvals.
- less open chair time.
- better customer service.
And all of that translates to a more profitable dental practice.
Artificial Intelligence Has Come to Healthcare in a Big Way
To see how far the use of computers in healthcare has come, let’s take a brief look at where we started out not very long ago. We’re stepping into an exciting time in healthcare.
All of the knowledge and practice of the past several decades is about to explode into another level of understanding.
We’re about to see health as the network of interwoven data points that until now have been separated by time, distance and single-focusedness, disallowing us to really see the big picture.
AI is the current manifestation of the evolution of what’s been happening in the healthcare industry since the 1970’s, but more rapidly since 2010.
Information gathering is what healthcare providers rely on. AI is now available to compile massive amounts of information, draw conclusions, make predictions, and even prevent expensive and life-threatening diseases by recommending early intervention.
A brief timeline:
- 1960s – Lockheed debuts the first electronic health record (EHR).
- 1970s – The U.S. government begins using EHR in the Department of Veteran Affairs.
- 1970s – The first medical AI emerges.
- 2000s – EHR becomes widespread in hospitals and healthcare clinics.
- 2010s – AI software for dentistry emerges.
The History of AI Software in Dentistry
Dentistry itself is evolving in patients’ awareness from pain and problem-focused reactive solutions to really understanding the impact oral health has on one’s overall health.
Dentistry is finally shifting to a whole-person model of care.
With that, dental practices haven’t yet adjusted appointment times or workflows to accommodate the following increased needs for:
- Educating patients.
- Collecting data.
- Integrating with the medical team for a comprehensive view of the patient.
Electronic Health Record is to medicine what dental practice management software is to dentistry.
The first dental practice management software (PMS) was released in 1989 by Dentrix.
Like EHR, PMS wasn’t widely integrated into practices right away. The early 2000s saw many practices begin to use PMS, and it rapidly became common over the next decade.
Stop and think about that for a moment.
Just over thirty years ago not one single dental practice was using practice management software.
Can you imagine an office today not using practice management software?
Artificial intelligence is now where practice management software was in the early 2000s.
We’re seeing big changes coming for dental practices.
Here are a few ways AI software stands to improve dentistry:
- More efficient office workflow.
- Improved diagnostic capabilities.
- Fewer insurance claims denials.
- Improved ability to integrate dentistry and medicine.
Terms to Know in Dental Software AI
Part of what makes new technology daunting to adopt is the unknown. People are aware that AI exists in many aspects of our lives, but do we really understand it? Unless you’re a computer scientist, most likely not. Most people would say they don’t understand exactly how cell phones work, either, however they have no problem using them.
But with AI, since it’s computer “intelligence”, there’s a level of skepticism. You might like to know generally how it works to feel comfortable using it in your dental practice.
Two commonly used branches of AI are machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL). In machine learning, the computer “learns” from looking at a large set of data and finding patterns.
As more data is entered, the algorithm is able to form a clearer and clearer picture of the data and thus produce more accurate answers to questions. It can apply its gained knowledge to future problems and questions. 
In deep learning, the computer learns patterns and layers of patterns, creating “deep” understanding and the capability of giving an answer using peripheral knowledge of a topic. It’s similar to the way a human is able to determine that a rough pencil outline drawing of an elephant is an elephant, even though most of the details are missing.
A popular algorithm that’s used in many healthcare AI solutions is the artificial neural network (ANN). This is the most commonly used algorithm for image classification and it’s what you’ll find driving software that reads digital radiographs. 
Read more about artificial neural networks here: What are Neural Networks?
The Pros and Cons of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare
The pros of using artificial intelligence in healthcare are likely greater than we can realize given our current vantage point at the moment.
Imagine we’re climbing a mountain. We’ve committed to climbing this mountain and we’ve already gotten started.
It’s a very high summit, so we have to acclimate along the way. As of right now, we’re not quite at base camp yet, but we’re close. We can imagine what the view from the summit is going to be like, but until we actually see it, we’re limited by our imagination.
The actual experience is bound to be breathtaking.
The pros we can imagine certainly include the ability to use the whole of human knowledge, the collective brain power of everyone who has ever entered a data point. Eventually.
Base camp is where we start using AI in individual dental practices to make them work better.
It’s also where other individual healthcare providers start using AI.
The summit will be the place we can all connect and share data.
Artificial intelligence isn’t really artificial. It’s collective human knowledge compiled by a computer. Humans had to input the data in the first place. The computer makes sense of it, learns from it, and gives it back to us in a useful way.
The biggest pro for AI is the shortening of the human learning curve.
Take for example, a common situation in private dental practices. You have a new employee at the front desk, ask yourself:
- How long does it take that new employee to get up to speed with how your practice runs?
- How much time do your experienced employees spend training new employees?
- And how often do you have new employees?
AI currently exists that helps new employees learn quickly while helping seasoned employees move efficiently through their day.
This empowers everyone to be profit-drivers for you and your practice. How?
- By reducing the time your front office spends on the phone verifying insurance, allowing them to provide high quality customer service.
- By prioritizing front office tasks, thus reducing the stress front office staff frequently feel.
- By providing answers your patients want right away, encouraging them to schedule their next appointment right away.
- By helping the front office fill open appointments so you don’t lose production.
- By maximizing production on every appointment so you’re not missing revenue.
Read more about Dental Dash, an artificial intelligence platform that makes your front office more efficient. www.dentaldash.co AI stands to reduce admin errors and provide unbiased, standardized guidance that grows more accurate over time.
What are some of the potential drawbacks of using AI in dentistry? Top of mind is patient privacy. Since the AI platforms for front office task management integrate with your existing PMS, patient data will be kept safe.
We’re already able to share data between providers, such as when images are sent from a general practice to a specialist, so the same level of compliance will be necessary as dental and medical providers eventually begin sharing data.
There are already companies offering solutions to look at large data sets of patients by de-identifying the patient’s private information. This is something to keep an eye on as it continues to develop and improve.
Some are concerned we might rely too much on AI. The need for humans will never go away. The last thing anyone wants is for computers to take over completely.
Artificial intelligence exists to enhance human capabilities, not replace them.
Think of your front office. There will always be a need to have warm and friendly humans to interact with patients and make sure everything is running smoothly.
AI stands to help your human staff be more friendly and helpful. AI does the heavy lifting of monotonous tasks that often overwhelm front office staff.
We’ve all experienced cranky receptionists. How does it make you feel when you go in for your own doctor appointment and the person responsible for greeting you and taking your information is unpleasant?
AI isn’t a magic wand to make people happier, but often the reason for unhappy employees is the stress they feel at work. If AI can help alleviate work stress, we should see an improvement in overall work satisfaction and happiness.
Be sure to download our free ebook about how to start using AI in your front office. It’s full of tips for using AI to create a happier work environment.
(And Have a Happier Front Office Staff)
Cost is always something to consider when you’re looking to add a new technology to your practice.
With any tech, you have to look at the long term payoff and decide whether or not it’s worth it. The cost of integrating AI into your front office workflow is minimal and the payoff will not only be in higher productivity, but also in a less overwhelmed staff.
Learning new technology can feel overwhelming. Getting used to having a new “employee” working with you takes an adjustment. With AI, you essentially have a computer as another worker in your practice.
If you’re adding diagnostic, image-reading AI, you can consider it another set of trained eyes, or even a second opinion. You’re still in control and making the final decision, but you’ve got another expert reviewing charts and images with you.
In the front office, you’re essentially adding an employee who can think faster than your humans to say, “Hey, you need to call this patient for that opening because they live the closest and they’re due for a hygiene visit.”
Now, that’s pretty powerful.
How to Use Artificial Intelligence in your Dental Practice
Consider starting with AI in your front office. It’s the easiest, fastest, and least expensive place to start and you’ll be able to see the results right away.
While it might be daunting to think about integrating AI into your practice, remember that it exists to make your life easier. Taking small steps to integrate AI into certain aspects of your practice will make it feel more natural and less overwhelming.
Imagine converting your home to all smart technology. Overhauling everything from temperature control to security to lights to sound systems at once would be a bit much. But if you were to start by putting your lights on smart settings, then a little later changing over your sound system, etc. then the whole project is actually pretty easy.
Take the same approach with AI in your dental practice. By starting with AI in the front office, you give your staff the tools to do the best job they can.
When they’re performing well, your schedule stays full and you run a profitable practice. Once you’re comfortable with AI in this aspect of your practice, you’ll be ready to try it in your back office.
Dental Dash is an AI platform that integrates into your existing practice management software to help automate the front office flow. It’s an easy way to start with artificial intelligence and get your staff on board from the get go.
Analyzing AI for Your Dental Practice
While there are new dental AI companies emerging in the marketplace, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind when choosing which one to start with:
- Ease of implementation: AI that plugs into your existing practice management software will be easier than installing and/or switching to new software altogether.
- Cost: Look at whether the solution you’re considering charges a monthly fee regardless of use or if it’s aligned with your business growth. Solutions that only charge for what you use give you peace of mind that you’re not wasting money.
- Ease of use for the entire staff: Make sure the software is user friendly and doesn’t require extensive training. AI should be helpful and easy to use.
- Return on investment: Are there specific measurable benefits you can associate back to your AI software? Perhaps fewer unscheduled appointments or fewer claims denials? Choosing a few key performance indicators to measure will help you determine if your investment is yielding what you want.
Last Thoughts on AI for Your Dental Practice
Artificial intelligence is improving our ability to begin integrating dentistry into primary care. It’s leading healthcare and dentistry into the future. But we need to start bringing individual dental practices into the realm of AI first.
It won’t be long before dentistry is able to seamlessly integrate with medicine and truly provide the comprehensive care we know is critical to patients’ overall health.
Remember: start small and easy and go from there.
Integrating AI into your dental practice doesn’t have to be overwhelming, in fact, it should be quite the opposite.
Check out our homepage to learn more about the benefits of our artificial intelligence platform that integrates with your existing practice management software and improves your front office workflow. www.dentaldash.co
Don’t forget to download our guide. You can read it offline or print it out for your office manager to read. It’s full of tips to make the transition to AI easy.
Download our guide to integrate AI into your practice.
One step at a time.
(And Have a Happier Front Office Staff)
Resources for AI in Dentistry
See who else is talking about AI in dentistry.
- Artificial Intelligence in Dentistry: Chances and Challenges – F. Schwendicke, W. Samek, J. Krois, 2020
- Electronic Health Records: Then, Now, and in the Future
- What is machine learning?
- Use of Artificial Intelligence in Dentistry: Current Clinical Trends and Research Advances | jcda