Are Dentists Ready for AI Rankings?

If you’re a dental nerd like we are, you’ve been following the movement of AI into the dental world. There’s been a lot of talk about using AI to create clearer treatment benchmarks and improve patient trust (we’ve done some of it ourselves).

But one elephant in the room that’s so far gotten less attention: using AI to rank dentists based on performance. 

Dr. Matthew Gillespie of Azalea Dental Care raised the issue on a recent episode of Dental Rift. He shared that while in his home state of Texas, dentists aren’t even allowed to advertise as being better than other dentists, he foresees a future where AI can track treatment outcomes at scale — and grade dentists accordingly.

This is, to put it mildly, a can of worms. On the one hand, we’re big believers in accountability. Giving dentists accurate performance data should help them improve — and sharing that data with the public would help patients feel more confident when choosing their providers.

On the other hand… we know that clinical work is often too complex to be reduced to a grade on a report card. How can even the most sophisticated software account for the vast number of variables that can affect treatment decisions or results?

For example, one dentist may perform a flawless procedure only to have the patient fail to follow through on their aftercare and return a week later complaining about the outcome. Another may record a higher than average failure rate — because they specialize in tackling only the most difficult cases.

Can we create a ranking system that doesn’t penalize these dentists? And if so, would the industry embrace accountability or see it as an attack on clinical autonomy?

Your guess is as good as ours. But one thing’s for sure: Dental is only just beginning this conversation.

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