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Disruptive innovations in dentistry: How AI and machine learning are enhancing resin-based composites

Light curing is a small part of the restoration process, but it has an oversized influence on clinical outcome. Shannon Sommers and Alicia Webb look at the technology that uses AI and machine learning to enhance resin-based composites.

Disruptive innovations are being seen within the dental space due to various reasons. Consumer demand, information technology, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, as well as a generational shift in values, are all affecting how dental care is being delivered. Examining and measuring patient outcomes and delivery of quality dental care begins with evaluating data, as comprehensive data support patient care, treatment guidelines, and defines the quality of care. Data is generated at each point in the process of dental care, with the most valuable source being the electronic dental record (EDR). However, data is also found within digital radiographs, CBCT scans, intraoral images, and even when light-curing a restoration.

Two areas of focus on improving the quality of care have been on dental materials and the effectiveness of light-curing and the evolution of adhesive techniques in transforming the scope of dental practice. Dental providers can use basic methods to maximize adhesive performance, but how effective are these techniques and materials without looking at data to measure the outcomes? New and improved dental adhesive materials and the way they are polymerized are key components in the modification of dental restoration and placement. As a result, these paradigm changes are potentially more disruptive to traditional care models than in the past, and they will ultimately affect how dental care is delivered.

For example, light curing is thought to be an uncomplicated procedure. The dentist preps the tooth for the restoration, places the restoration, and cures the restoration with a light-curing unit (LCU). Most LCUs have an audible timer, but the beep does not indicate that the resin material has fully cured; only that a certain time interval has lapsed. As the curing light gets older, issues can arise such as a decrease in light output due to degradation of the fiber-optic light probe, breakage and fracture of the light tip, and the presence of cured composite resin or debris on the exposed light tip. Consequently, dentists routinely see resin-based composite (RBC) restorations showing signs of chipping, fracture, discoloration, loss of anatomical form, lack of retention, or secondary caries. Of these, the most common reasons cited for replacement of light-activated RBC restorations are secondary caries and restoration fracture; therefore, it is very likely that many RBCs placed in dental offices are undercured.

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