Dentistry is a field that evolves by leaps and bounds, and in other ways, remains fairly unchanged over the course of time. For example, new materials mean fillings last longer, resist decay better and act and feel more like a real tooth. That’s progress.

Some things never change. Like the need for good oral hygiene, for instance. My childhood dentist probably recommended the same hygiene routine — brushing twice a day, flossing daily and two cleanings a year — that is recommended today.

But one advancement is blowing those others out of the water. The field of artificial intelligence (AI) is making its way into the dentistry and may be featured at an office near you in the very near future.

Pearl, a Santa Monica, California-based startup applying AI to dentistry, recently announced that it has raised $11 million in funding, led by Craft Ventures and unnamed strategic dental industry partners.

Pearl’s CEO Ophir Tanz spearheaded the development of AI dental technologies, said the fresh capital will further Pearl’s progress toward creating a holistic oral health platform.

"Pearl will have an immediate positive impact on the dental category," said Tanz. "It will streamline tedious, repetitive tasks, enhance profitability across dentistry, and, most importantly, it will improve the standard of care by validating diagnoses, removing large elements of uncertainty from the dental equation."

What’s AI?

Artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible for machines to learn from experience, adjust to new inputs and perform human-like tasks. Most AI examples that you hear about today — from chess-playing computers to self-driving cars — rely heavily on deep learning and natural language processing.

Using these technologies, computers can be trained to accomplish specific tasks by processing large amounts of data and recognizing patterns in the data.

Cool, right?

How Will AI Help in Dentistry Specifically?

Two ways Tanz predicts AI integration into a dental practice are identifying "dozens" of common pathologies in dental X-rays and creating structured medical records while self-improving from live feedback.

If that goes well, Pearl will incorporate new research to flag early indicators of disease and tie oral health to full-body health (and vice-versa).