Dentistry team uses AI for early detection of gum inflammation

AI to detect gum disease
Three cases illustrating dentist’s visual examination (b) and AI’s detection (c) of gum problems (a) Intraoral photograph (b) Health status labeled by a calibrated dentist (green=healthy, red=diseased, yellow=questionable) (c) AI detection results. Credit: Faculty of Dentistry, HKU

A study led by researchers at the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), in collaboration with multiple international institutions, has successfully demonstrated the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in detecting gum inflammation, also known as gingivitis, from intraoral photographs.

This cutting-edge technology can revolutionise early detection and prevention of oral and systemic diseases linked to gum inflammation, such as tooth loss, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.

The study—published in the International Dental Journal—shows that AI algorithms can analyse patients’ intraoral photographs to detect signs of inflammation like redness, swelling, and bleeding along the gum margin with more than 90 per cent accuracy, matching the visual examination of a dentist. This innovative technology enables population-wide monitoring of gum health and paves the way for more personalised dental care.

The study involved developing and testing an AI model using a dataset of over 567 images of gums with varying degrees of inflammation and is one of the first to explore the use of AI in detecting gum inflammation.

“Our study shows that AI can be a valuable screening tool in detecting and diagnosing gum disease, one of the key indicators of periodontal disease, allowing earlier intervention and better health outcomes for the population,” lead researcher Dr Walter Yu-Hang Lam said.

The use of AI in dentistry has been gaining momentum in recent years, with researchers exploring various applications of the technology, from detecting cavities to predicting treatment outcomes to biomimetic design of artificial teeth. The use of AI in gum inflammation detection is a promising development that could revolutionise how gum disease is detected, treated, and even prevented.

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