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Nick Duncan

CEO, SmileMate

In today’s fast-paced society, we have come to expect most services at the touch of a button. Why should healthcare be any different?


We are all very busy, and we want things to be as quick and convenient as possible. Health technology allows for more accessible and immediate knowledge and information to be shared with both patient and professional.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used across healthcare to help patients get initial assessments so they are empowered to have full and frank discussions with a medical professional before they even enter the treatment room.

The use of AI in dentistry

In dental care, AI can be especially useful. Remote dental screening involves a patient taking a photo on their phone of any health issue, which can be uploaded and checked against a database of oral, dental and orthodontic conditions labelled by doctors and dentists, and identify issues ranging from visible cavities to gum inflammation to orthodontic crowding.

The accumulation of data trains algorithms to recognise any issue automatically, providing a patient with useful information which may prevent them ever having to come into a clinic.

The treatment is always delivered by a human. The technology is there – when will society wake up and reap its benefits?

If the algorithm does identify a potential problem, it prepares a dentist for any consultation required, saving time and worry for both parties.

A virtual consultation process also means that conversations are standardised, as everyone is being presented with the same information, regardless of where they live or who they see. Dentists are more easily able to get out and about to reach more patients.

‘You can even be talking to people about their oral health at the cricket club, encouraging them to pay attention to their teeth and gums and see a dentist,’ says Nick Duncan, Chief Executive of SmileMate, an AI-driven dental screening tool which uses photo labelling to provide patients with an objective diagnostic screening report.

Combating concerns about technology

We are used to seeing this sort of technology in action, as it involves the same tools Facebook uses to detect who a person is, or captcha forms use when they verify we are a real human. But people still often feel nervous when it comes to using the technology in medicine.

However, Duncan says, ‘It is really just an aggregation of multiple highly trained doctors who have analysed photos. Rather than being assessed by one professional, who may make errors, you’re being assessed by many, and the failure rate is much lower.

‘The real barrier is societal attitudes. Can we accept that we are not talking to people? Across healthcare the benefits are huge – whether it’s skincare, tumours or x-rays – and are proving to be far more reliable than humans looking at same records. And remember, the treatment is always delivered by a human. The technology is there – when will society wake up and reap its benefits?’

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