As General Manager for DentalMonitoring in the UK and Ireland, David Drew joined the company in 2020 when there were just six employees in the UKI region. Now there are 400-500 staff globally and 35 in the UK and Ireland. This growth has been partially driven by the tremendous success of the DentalMonitoring technology and partly by an increased acceptance of remote diagnosis and triage caused by the COVID pandemic and lockdown. But what is it and how does it work? David explains.
Imagine a system that constantly monitors the health of your oral cavity in the same way that smart technology in a modern car constantly checks the condition of the vehicle, from the engine to the lights and the amount of fuel in the tank to the distance you can drive before topping up the petrol or charging the battery. Now imagine if you could only get that data during an MOT or service – there would be broken down vehicles blocking the roads all over the country.
But that is exactly what happens in orthodontics. During a treatment process that is predicted to last up to two to three years the orthodontist will ask their patient to return for assessment every seven- to 12-weeks. During that period a bracket might have de-bonded or a wire come loose, and from the time that happens the treatment process effectively stops. But it may not be spotted for anything up to two months – which pushes the completion date back.
DentalMonitoring is a system that assesses the treatment process much more frequently – on a weekly basis, or as determined by the treating orthodontist – and will automatically advise the orthodontist when something has gone wrong. The problem can be resolved without any fuss and without pushing the date for treatment completion back by weeks or months, which helps avoid a frustrated and annoyed patient who is looking for the smoothest possible journey to straighter, healthier teeth.
At the heart of our technology, devised by founder and CEO Philippe Salah , is artificial intelligence based around robust algorithms and deep machine learning, the most advanced dental medical data collection and analysis system available based on 1.3 million orthodontic cases and 1.5 billion images.
We define our AI as technology that helps the human work more effectively towards a more predictable and successful outcome by providing the orthodontist with the same information they would normally only receive during a face-to-face consultation, but we do it much more frequently, thus elevating the patient journey, and offering more clinical control.
Another example; during orthodontic treatment there is a greater possibility that recession can get worse. DentalMonitoring will flag that up as soon as it is detected, without the patient having to wait for a visit to the orthodontist. The orthodontist can then choose to pause the treatment and call the patient in for a more thorough assessment and intervention before the condition goes too far.
Currently our focus is on orthodontic treatment. 30% of private orthodontic practices use DentalMonitoring’s systems and more mixed private and NHS practices are making enquiries to bring us on board; but we foresee lots of changes over the next two to three years including greater interest in tertiary care and education.
We are talking about improving the patient journey and making the practitioner’s job less pressured. For example, from a litigation standpoint DentalMonitoring provides a great level of record keeping while also adding an extra layer of care to the patient experience.
They will always know where they are along their treatment pathway and the algorithm app also provides them with morphing imagery that demonstrates the changes from where they started to where they are now – something that can get lost during the slow ortho therapy and it helps maintain their spirits during treatment.
We can also see when a patient is not maintaining the correct levels of oral hygiene and their orthodontist can advise them accordingly, or even programme the app to ‘coach’ the patient at regular intervals based on their own progress – think Fitbit for oral hygiene.
The fact is that there are so many positive possibilities with this technology that we are discovering new uses all the time. For instance, in the future it could be used beyond orthodontics – imagine how effective it might be in spotting periodontal disease, or mouth cancer, or peri-implantitis?
DentalMonitoring empowers practices with real life data, to help improve clinical outcomes; I’ll give you a practical example. When we first provided access to treatment data captured via the DentalMonitoring system in the USA we spotted a strange phenomenon in several orthodontic practices. We observed that during the third week of treatment there was an unexpected spike in bracket breakages; but we didn’t understand why. We had the data but we didn’t have an explanation.
Working with the orthodontists we discovered that after the second week the patient becomes more comfortable with their braces. Up to that point they have been sensible and careful in their diet, but by week three they become more adventurous and crack! They munch down on something that breaks or damages the brackets.
This hadn’t previously been spotted but thanks to DentalMonitoring the practitioner knew to advise patients about what they should or shouldn’t be eating by week three, and this advice can now be sent to every patient automatically, and at the right moment, through the DentalMonitoring app
DentalMonitoring is an effective, impartial and clear-eyed observer which is excellent at collecting data and labelling the mouth. Our AI can pick up patterns in treatment, as we did with that third week bracket breakage in the USA. Say for instance we might spot that for one orthodontist the bracket always de-bonds on the UL6, we can then ask, why is that happening and what can be done?
In the future, it can be easily imagined that we can help by observing the oral condition of residents in care homes that don’t get a regular visit from a dentist, or help keep a regular eye on people with autism or educational difficulties for whom maintaining good oral hygiene might prove challenging.
And because we have the largest dental database in the world we can also analyse and review the effectiveness of new materials and through sharing our observations we can help in driving treatment innovations in the future.
People are asking us whether we can work with them in a number of ways and our greatest challenge is in saying “yes, but not yet”. We are moving forward in a series of well-established beachheads. First ensuring that the technology is fully understood, fully utilised to maximum benefit, and as such has become the standard of care in that area of dentistry, then we can take the next step.
In conclusion our core aim is to help make all dental practices smarter; more time efficient and effective in ensuring the team has the information they need to make an informed choice.
We are also really excited to be currently working alongside several NHS practices to adapt our solutions so that all NHS patients in the future will get access to DentalMonitoring for their orthodontic treatment.
In doing so we can help NHS practices deal with the backlog of patient appointments by ensuring they only see the people that need care on that day, which eventually – we believe – will have a major impact on their quality of care.
See the original article here: Dental Industry Review