Artificial Intelligence in the Dental Laboratory
Recently, there has been much talk and speculation around artificial intelligence (AI) as it permeates across our society in a very profound way; but how will it influence dental laboratory technology, and will it bring a threat to our dental laboratories? In my humble opinion, AI will be yet another robust technology that dental laboratory professionals can implement to make their work more efficient and thereby provide for an elevated level of work/life balance. Technology is meant to help us achieve more, in less time, at heightened levels of production and accuracy, leading us to achieve successful outcomes.
AI can actually be a very valuable tool to help improve dental laboratories' work and streamline their processes. The job of a dental laboratory technologist requires precision, attention to detail, a high level of skill, and an artistic eye. By using AI, dental laboratories can enhance the accuracy and efficiency of their work, reduce the potential for human error, and ultimately provide better outcomes for our patients. AI can also be used to automate routine tasks, which can save laboratories time and labor costs. Sophisticated algorithms can assist in analyzing the patient's facial structure and other factors, and can assist the dental technologists in creating restorations that fit perfectly, ensuring better patient comfort and satisfaction. Software can analyze patient scans and create a digital model of the patient's natural teeth, which can then be used to assist in designing a custom prosthetic that fits perfectly and meets the patient's needs.
Another way AI can assist technologists is by providing them with real-time feedback on their work. AI algorithms have the potential to analyze a workflow and provide suggestions for improvement. For example, AI can monitor the technologist's movements and provide feedback on their posture and ergonomics to prevent repetitive strain injuries. AI can also provide feedback on the technologist's use of tools and materials, ensuring that they are using them correctly and efficiently, and consistently improving.
From a laboratory management perspective, AI can help with quality control. It can potentially detect, in real time, if the prosthetic is the correct size and shape, if the color matches the patient's natural teeth, and if there are any defects. Furthermore, AI can help dental laboratories optimize their workflows by analyzing data on past cases and identifying areas for business and/or technical improvements. The technology can learn patterns and trends, offering dental laboratories the ability to make better informed decisions about materials, techniques, and processes to improve the quality of their work and reduce costs, and can help dental laboratories in the management of their inventory.
With proper implementation and management, AI has the potential to help dental laboratories provide better prosthetics to their dentists' patients and improve the overall dental health of the population. What will the future with AI bring? I believe it is technology that will improve every function of our lives, including dental laboratory technology.
Daniel Alter, MSc, MDT, CDT