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AI In Dentistry Has Great Promise As A Tool For Your Dentist, Not A Replacement

AI. Artificial Intelligence; a familiar term that was coined in the mid 1950s. It arrived amid poodle skirts, hula hoops and rock ‘n roll, came Salk’s polio vaccine, atomic bomb testing and exploring the science of DNA.

The Soviet Union marked the Space Age with the launching of Sputnik-1, the world’s first artificial satellite. Its battery ran out after 21 days, but not before it had orbited the earth 1,440 times and travelled 70,000,000 kilometres.

With the timing of new a baby, nine months later President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, and NASA was born. The Space Race was on, hotting up a Cold War. With 8,377 satellites currently orbiting earth, and apologies to Vince Lombardi Jr, it continues to assert that winning is everything but wanting to win is everything, and more.

On August 31, 1955 the Civil Aviation Authority declared that a pilotless light Auster was launched by a “billion-to-one” chance, as it circled crazily over Sydney for three hours.

As RAAF jets chased it before it banked, turned and was sent into the sea by two Navy Furies, across the world a young American Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Dartmouth College submitted a proposal for a 2-month, ten delegate summer workshop to commence in July 1956.

It was substantially more than a billion-to-one chance that 28-year-old academic John McCarthy’s study would happen.

That’s literally the odds of throwing nine nines from rolling nine decahedron die at once. But maybe one-in-a-million would have known at the time, that this was the man who coined the term that named the research that set the discipline that involved the sciences that computed the logic that aimed to imitate the cognitive abilities of a human.

‘Artificial intelligence’ was the neologism at the time. A linguistic newcomer that encapsulated the evolving attitude; and officiated this new field of knowledge that needed brainstrust from the likes of Bell Telephone Laboratories, IBM and Harvard University.

Claude Shannon (1916-2001), Nathaniel Rochester (1919-2001) and Marvin Minsky (1927-2016) obliged, and at the July 1956 workshop at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire artificial intelligence was founded.

It’s turned out much better than This Is The House That Jack Built.

John McCarthy died in 2011. The combined legacy of these men is the continuing exponential advances in machines rising to the task of understanding the world at large.

AI and machine learning (ML) are not really considered transposable.

Technically AI is a proper superset of ML – which is a proper superset of deep learning (DL).

DL is ML using a specific set algorithms (neural networks) and that’s what’s meant by AI.

Falling within this AI definition is also reinforcement learning (RL), and HLI: human-like intelligence.

(To which of course the answer has to be yes, human like intelligence; human like banana .. boom tish!)

If the past sixty years of AI and dentistry breakthroughs and were overlayed, it’d be an interesting map that has lead us to where we currently stand.

For some patients, combining this type of technology with dentistry is a little frightening.

They may forgotten – or not experienced – the dental procedures of the 50s, 60s and 70s, when equipment was much less refined, and less comfortable; and pain relief was limited in choice.

For others it’s an exciting merger – the new frontier of new front teeth; more painless mouth-magic ahead. For many, there’s ambivalence, borne of the overwhelm that’s numbed with the mention of anything dental.

Overall for patients, AI in dentistry is almost completely misunderstood.

There’s a sense that it came from nowhere. One day we were tilted in the heavy, leathered chair being drilled via a foot-operated pedal; the next C-3PO will greet us at reception, the dental hygienist is one of The Stepford Wives, and Jared the android dentist is having R2D2 use his lifeform scanner on our face.

It’s a future that began in the 1970s, a time when technology seemed to have its own volition in moving closer, rather than being a distant vagary pursued.

It was a decade that didn’t want us to stay still. Sony gave us the Walkman, VCRs stretched a long, long leash from the tv and blockbuster movie screenings; email, e-sports and mobile phones were nascent. Amid microcomputers, floppy disks and digital cameras, Apple took its first bite.

In bell bottoms and platforms, the healthcare industry had its first taste of AI with MYCIN, an AI program that identified treatments for blood infections. It’s competence was roughly the same as a haematologist, and better than a GP.

Dentistry smiled upon AI in the mid 1980s. In prosthodontics, Computer Aided Design, Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) shortened teeth restoration by weeks; although early versions were considered cumbersome until software and materials improved.

So AI was pretty much right there in the dental chair then, and we hardly noticed being too busy wondering where the foot lever went.

Were innovations in dentistry equated to the Space Race, we’re now at the starting line of the New Space Race with increased contenders on a continuous continuum.

It’s not a Robopocalypse in lab coats we’re facing. And although the first published book completely written by AI is called Bridging the Gap it has nothing to do with bridges, or diastema or dentistry.

AI-based learning platforms accelerate research and development in dental care – including preventative – and gives dental professionals easy, speedy access to these latest evidence-based practices.

Artificial intelligence gives incredible assistance to all areas of dentistry: from administration, diagnosis and prognosis, to repair and replacement. Algorithmic-driven anaesthesia administration heightens patient comfort and safety. It is an expanding technology designed to provide exceptional precision in tailoring treatments – all the while with a professional in oral health to complete this optimised patient care.

For dentistry, the ‘A’ of AI could stand for auspicious; the ‘I’ intriguing. It’s not without its challenges. There are ethical considerations, in terms of possible oversights in AI decisions, along with avoiding algorithm bias. The preservation of patient privacy and consent is an important factor.

It’s a tool that elevates dentistry where once we used a pedal. It may be limitless, and like Eisenhower and NASA, Lucas and C-P30, and of course John McCarthy, it’s also human participatory.

Disclaimer: The material posted is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Results vary with each patient. Any dental procedure carries risks and benefits. If you have any specific questions about any dental and/or medical matter, you should consult your dentist, physician or other professional healthcare providers.



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