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New Research from Pearl Offers Insight into Dental Patient Trust and Perceptions of Technology

Pearl, the global leader in dental AI solutions, announced the results of a survey of 597 U.S. dental patients that evaluated their trust in dental providers and their perceptions of how technology is being used in the field. Overwhelmingly, patients support the use of advanced technologies and are more likely to trust their dentist’s diagnosis if they are using artificial intelligence to assist in evaluating x-rays, according to a key finding from the Dental Patient Trust & Technology Survey report.

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“When dentists have the right tools to show patients AI-annotated images in the operatory, they can communicate more effectively and help patients better understand a diagnosis”

The survey uncovered that patients’ trust in their provider is a key factor in determining whether they move forward with treatment, which can have significant financial implications for providers. Fifty-five percent of respondents report that trust in their diagnosis is the most important factor affecting their willingness to accept treatment, more than urgency (28%) and treatment cost (11%). As dentists look to build patient loyalty and further establish trust, the survey revealed that they should focus on two main factors – ensuring clear communication and leveraging the latest technology. 65% of patients don’t feel they have a complete understanding of what their dentist is pointing out in their x-ray, the survey found.

This lack of understanding can be a barrier to patients accepting their treatment. When patients don’t completely understand why they are being prescribed a potentially expensive or painful treatment, it may cause them to take alternative action. A majority of patients (61%) said they have taken action before, including getting a second opinion – which 25% of patients said they’ve done – or switching dentists, which 32% said they’ve done. Only 41% of respondents said that they generally have complete trust in their dentist’s diagnoses. When patients lack trust in their diagnosis, they can delay care or seek treatment elsewhere, a missed opportunity for dental practices.

Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are poised to help. Used effectively, AI can help streamline clinical and business-related tasks. Certain AI-aided tools are also facilitating better communication between patients and providers.

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“When dentists have the right tools to show patients AI-annotated images in the operatory, they can communicate more effectively and help patients better understand a diagnosis,” said Kyle Stanley, DDS, Chief Clinical Officer at Pearl. “AI-assisted pathology detection aids, like our Second Opinion® platform, clearly indicate dental conditions like caries, calculus and fillings right on a patient’s x-ray. We are encouraged by the survey findings, which showed that patients value the use of technology in their dental practice and are enthusiastic about the addition of AI.”

As AI-enabled visual aids become more broadly adopted, they will help patients to better understand their radiograph images. AI tools can also lend credibility to a dentist’s diagnosis because patients consider AI applications impartial and trustworthy, and the dentistry field has long been critiqued for a lack of consistency when it comes to diagnoses. The survey validated that point: 71% of respondents said they would be more likely to trust their dentist’s diagnosis if the dentist were using AI software to assist in evaluating their x-rays.

Dentistry is ideally positioned to lead the way in the adoption of AI across the healthcare continuum. Although it is often used behind the scenes for diagnostics in fields like pulmonology, dentistry is likely the first sector where patients will interact with AI directly, paving the way for broader AI usage in other fields.

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