Researchers at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine are now integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and automation into orthodontic treatment. Using their OrthoDx AI-based software, they can pinpoint and measure facial structures by analyzing x-ray images of the side of a patient’s head.
“If we can automate [face and head] measurements, that will speed up the process in diagnosis and treatment planning for orthodontists,” said Melih Motro, DDS, PhD, a clinical professor of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics who developed OrthoDx with his colleagues.
In 2017, Motro and a fellow orthodontist were discussing the inefficiencies of manually calculating the facial dimensions that are necessary for planning braces and other kinds of orthodontics treatment when he realized that AI could be used to automate those measurements.
Typically, orthodontists spend 10 to 15 minutes per patient using x-ray images to map out key dimensions in the face and head by locating particular anatomical landmarks like the distance between the upper teeth and lower jaw.
To accelerate this process, the researchers developed software to learn from x-rays and recognize the facial structures in the image, automatically assigning those key landmark points on the patient’s face.
With the software, orthodontists still fully control the measurements and landmarks and can customize measurements to fit the patient, but they no longer will need to map them out by hand. The software finishes the x-ray analysis in seconds, so orthodontists can develop treatment plans immediately, which gives them more face-to-face time with their patients.
Next, Motro is moving the software from the lab to the clinic with his startup company, Phimentum. He plans on bringing OrthoDx to market and on developing additional automated tools for all orthodontic diagnostic processes within the next five to 10 years.
The researchers are currently working on six other projects, including a similar system that calculates measurements from frontal x-ray scans of a person’s face and jaw.
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