We all know AI is a mainstay in the news this year. Since the release of ChatGPT 3.5, virtually half of the media we consume is engorged by AI-related conversations. Obviously, some of this conversation is drenched in overhyped verbiage and semi-annoying conclusions (perfect example: AI will displace 40 percent of the workforce by 2035). 

But, hidden beneath the clickbait fear campaigns, the windfall of paid marketing from cash-flush startups, and the confused headlines from misinformed news stations, is real power. And it’s important to think about AI and how it can potentially shake up your workflows.

Today, we want to take an honest look at how AI impacts dentistry today. How can you start using (or thinking about using) AI in a way that’s feasible, cost-effective, and truly productive? And how can you avoid sprinting to a hype train that doesn’t have enough fuel to leave the station?

AI in Dental Marketing

Perhaps the most “in-your-face” use case for AI in dentistry is in marketing. Since the rise of ChatGPT, a never-ending swarm of marketing AI tools has hit the scene over the past few months. All of these tools rally around the same general concept — creating marketing materials cheaper, faster, and with more customization than ever.

Currently available tools (that are proven valuable) include:

To help illustrate how these tools work, how they blend together and complement each other, and how they flow through the marketing space, let’s discuss a few of these tools in a little more detail. Important: most of these tools are free, and the few that aren’t have trials (other than MidJourney). So, you can (and should) play around with each of them to see which ones work for you. A significant number of dental offices spend either too much money on marketing or completely ignore it.

Website Copy and Blogs (ChatGPT)

ChatGPT is a generative AI that produces (quite insane) pieces of written content. It’s a nonstop blogging machine. Or, as ChatGPT puts it:

“As a language model developed by OpenAI, ChatGPT can indeed be a valuable tool for dentists looking to create amazing blog content. Blogging is an excellent way for dentists to educate and engage with their patients, establish their expertise, and attract new clients. With its ability to generate human-like text, ChatGPT can assist dentists in various ways, including generating ideas, providing information, and enhancing the overall quality of their blog posts.”

You can also tailor the AI to create content based on specific voices, styles, and writing flows. For example, we can ask ChatGPT to create an intro for a  piece of content about preventing cavities.

“Hey there! As your friendly neighborhood dentist, I’m here to share some valuable tips on preventing those pesky cavities. We all want a healthy, happy smile, right? So let’s dive into some easy and effective ways to keep those cavities at bay.”

Now, we can ask it to say the same, but in the voice of Donald Trump.

“Listen folks, nobody knows preventing cavities better than me. I’ve got the best tips, believe me. When it comes to dental health, I’m a winner. Here’s what you need to do to prevent those nasty cavities, okay?”

Or Justin Trudeau…

“My fellow Canadians, when it comes to preventing cavities, we need to work together for a healthier smile. Let’s focus on these essential tips to keep our teeth shining bright and cavity-free, eh?”

From your favorite authors to your favorite online content creators or even major consulting companies, ChatGPT can spit out instant content in whatever voice you want… for free.

Images (MidJourney + DALL-E 2)

When it comes to the “mindblown” equation, MidJourney takes the cake. Currently, this generative AI exists on a Discord channel. But don’t let the hyper-relaxed setting fool you, this is magic.

MidJourney produces unique artwork completely designed by AI based on a description. Literally any description. We would give examples, but this is the type of technology that’s best seen in real-time. It’s that astounding.

DALL-E 2 is another generative art engine, and it’s currently free to try (MidJourney’s trial period is over; it’s pay-to-play).

You can essentially have these AI tools create any image imaginable to use with your marketing campaigns.

Videos (Synthesia)

For videos, tools like Synthesia make extremely cost-effective marketing materials. We do want to mention, you can easily use these for website videos — but social is tougher. Needless to say, the social space is absolutely overwhelmed by AI videos at the moment. So, it’s hard to get reach with them.

Still, they’re near-free. So, if you don’t currently do any videos, they are definitely better than nothing. And they can give you some free traction.

All Together

Find what works for you. Ideally, you want to look at AI for text, video, and images — as they make up the bulk of your creative costs. You can balance these new tools with human talent, or go full AI. There are also plenty of AI tools for strategy and funnel generation.

It really just depends on your needs, budget, and ideas. We can’t give you a complete guide to AI marketing, as marketing is a fluid and creative space. While AI tools can’t completely overtake humans in this space, they sure can cut your costs significantly.

AI in the Dental Imaging

Another interesting pathway for AI is in dental imaging. In fact, this is probably the AI pathway that’s front of mind for most dental offices. We’ve seen the rise of Series A AI in the dental space over the past few years, and radiology AI is already at play in a decent chunk of dental offices. If you want the nitty-gritty, the recent ADA SCDI White Paper No. 1106 dives deep into use cases for AI in dentistry, as well as some of the tested technology in the space. And it’s a fantastic read if you want a deeper, more detailed dive.

Generally, we can split dental imaging AI into two buckets:

  • Preventative solutions
  • Assisting solutions

Preventative solutions aim to deeply contextualize dental images to better understand risk factors.

For example, AI used to assist in detecting periodontic issues through radiographic intelligence can significantly improve treatment planning. Current AI can detect the rate of bone loss, pocket depth, crown-to-root ratio, bone support percentage (gingival margins), and surface area of bone support with stunning accuracy. At scale, these solutions aim to reduce work burdens for dentists, giving them more time to focus on treatment planning and preventative care.

Assisting solutions are immediately valuable, and they’re primarily focused on helping you uncover current issues. A good example would be caries detection. It’s immediately valuable, and it impacts current care.

Obviously, the elephant in the room is whether these AI are as accurate as dentists. It’s a challenging question to answer. For humans, bias, skill, time, and tools are all variables that impact accuracy. For AI, accuracy is encoded from the start (i.e., Ground Truth), and should improve over time.

Studies suggest (see reference 8, 9, 10, & 11) that AI is as or more accurate than clinicians when measured across large populations. However, the evidence surrounding these assertions is shaky. A meta-analysis of AI testing studies does showcase high accuracy with AI across dental applications, but there is a relatively high risk of bias — and none of the studies had large data sets and tight controls.

For now, it’s reasonable to assume AI can improve accuracy for some (but certainly not all) dentists. More importantly, combining AI with dentist input produced very real-time savings and cost reductions.

Tools like OverJet bring some of these AI promises into tangibility. The most recognizable unicorn in the dental space, OverJet has FDA approval for caries identification, calculus detection, and bone level quantification — in addition to some nifty features like AI-based patient reviews and daily task setting.

AI for the Non-clinical Environment

AI in the backroom isn’t as mystifying as AI in the clinical environment.

In the purely clinical environment, loose regulatory frameworks and litigatory risks underpin every AI decision. In the backroom, those fears start to shed away. There is a myriad of tools that use AI and robotic process automation to shed away repetitive headaches. For example, Pearl leverages AI to instantly break down ROI and performance across procedures. It also tackles automated and intelligent patient scheduling.

You can find AI solutions for financial planning, task setting, employee training, data processing, and virtually all backroom tasks. For many of these, you don’t even need a dental-specific tool. Many of the leading marketing solutions have the customization necessary to support dental workflows.

We can’t list every tool in these categories, because there are literally thousands. But it’s important to remember that AI has a very real place in the backroom, and it can be easier to justify AI time spend in this area.

The Barriers for AI in Dentistry

Yes, yes. We noticed the elephant in the room too. Before you can surf across the proverbial ocean of AI solutions, you have to tackle those little tricky waves — like accuracy, compliance, regulatory frameworks, and (of course) cost.

For starters, we want to say this: there’s no rush. Often, the marketing gurus behind Series A tech companies like to shout that “you’ll be left behind instantly” if you don’t buy their products. You won’t. Your competitors aren’t going to swallow your practice tomorrow if they adopt specific new AI tools.

That said, these new solutions do cut costs significantly. So, it’s smart to at least follow them and maybe run a few in-office tests.

Once you start testing them, those little waves we discussed start popping up. How does AI imaging work from a regulatory standpoint? Is AI accurate enough to create blogs that are truthful? Does it make sense to invest big in new AI systems and risk suffering death by a thousand cuts of SaaS payments?

For dentists, questions of accuracy, regulations, and compliance aren’t small. You operate in a very scientific, accurate, and patient-centric ecosystem. You can’t afford to play hot potato with AI suitors in a way that impacts patient care.

If we’re honest, the AI hype is really strong right now. And it’s very difficult to track signals of feasibility. The blockchain and NFT crowd has now rushed towards generative AI. It has real, tangible value. Businesses across the globe are using it right now. But when and where that value plugs into a dental office isn’t always straightforward.

Like any new tech, it’s a bit of a wild west. We urge dentists to start tracking these solutions, testing them, and playing around with them. But we also urge you to avoid the hype. Focus on results. Demo, test, play. But don’t buy until you build out a clearer picture of how these solutions will work together in your office to save you money and improve patient care.

You have time.

We Can’t Help You With Your AI-powered Technology, But We Can Help You With Your Human-powered Workforce

AI can cut some costs. But to create a winning office, you need smart, talented people. At WORKFORCE, we help dental offices find hygienists, assistants, and receptionists. To learn more, contact us or sign up to see our available talent.