Artificial intelligence in the fight against tooth decay
dentalXrai is the first dental start-up to be spun off the Charité. It was launched via the accelerator of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH). We spoke to one of its founders, Professor Dr Falk Schwendicke, Chair and Head of the Department of Oral Diagnostics, Digital Health and Health Services Research at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.
Professor Dr Falk Schwendicke, Chair and Head of the Department of Oral Diagnostics, Digital Health and Health Services Research at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and co-founder of dentalXrai.
Dr Schwendicke, founding a start-up in the medtech sector is not easy even in a start-up capital like Brain City Berlin, is it? But you have done just that, creating a company that will develop an AI-based diagnostic tool for dentists. How did you come up with the idea?
The idea originally came from other medical fields. I had read articles about the successful use of artificial intelligence in classifying melanomas, for example, and thought to myself: how might AI be made useful in dentistry? I spoke with my colleague Dr Joachim Krois, who works as a data expert in my working group at Charité. Together we got a pilot off the ground three years ago and launched the dentalXraiPro project.
What can dentalXraiPro do?
The software we developed can use AI algorithms to automatically analyse dental x-ray images and highlight the findings in colour. It provides a pre-evaluated image in just a few seconds. In order to develop these algorithms, we had to train our software intensively. We used X-rays from the Charité and cooperation partners from around the world. The dentists marked pathological changes and traces of previous treatments on these x-ray images. We fed this pool of data into the software and it uses that to identify statistical patterns. It learned to distinguish between cavities, infections and root fillings, for example.
What do dentists and what do patients get out of the software?
What's important is that our software does not eliminate the need for a dental examination and doesn't decide how to treat the issues it identifies. But it does speed up the analysis of X-ray images tremendously and raises it to a high-quality, standardized level. Analysing X-ray data usually takes a lot of time in the dental office. With dentalXraiPro, dentists can have a diagnosis in their hands with just a few clicks. This makes their work easier and they can take more time to talk to the patients. Patients can, in turn, be included in the diagnosis, because the coloured markings allow them to see the existing problems and better understand the proposed treatment.
Berlin has an extremely strong ecosystem in the field of medicine.
Don't you need an awful lot of data to train an AI sufficiently to ensure a reliable diagnostic result?
You need a lot of data, but not an infinite amount. The required quantity is more in the thousands range. Our focus is therefore more on a greater variety of data. We are concerned with the quality of the data used. How good and how clean are they? How many experts have looked at it before and above all: how generalisable is the data? These are also questions that we are addressing in the Artificial Intelligence in Dental Medicine (AIDM) working group founded in 2019 as part of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Zahn-, Mund- und Kieferheilkunde (German Society for Dentistry, Oral and Maxillofacial Medicine ) DGZMK and the Artificial Intelligence for Health (AI4H) dental working group at ITU/WHO that Joachim Krois and I manage together.
There are already competing products on the market. What are the unique selling points of dentalXraiPro?
We differ from other companies in the field in three ways: first, we don't come from the tech field, but from the dentistry. This is reflected, for example, in the usability: our software can be used intuitively by dentists. Second, it is very transparent and based on evidence. After all, it has to meet our scientific standards. And thirdly, compared to other products, we have come a long way with regard to the approval of dentalXraiPro as a medical product. The certification of the products is a major difficulty in the medtech area.
dentalXraiPro is an example of the successful transfer of medical knowledge into other areas. It was therefore also funded through the BIH Digital Health Accelerator (DHA), the joint technology transfer programme of the Berlin Institute of Health and the Charité. How did this support help you?
We applied for funding with our pilot and joined the accelerator in 2018. The support included funding, co-working space, and mentoring by experienced consultants on such mattes as legal questions and setting up a pitch deck. We were thinking entrepreneurially from the start, but as a start-up you still need specific advice on many issues. Most importantly, the accelerator enabled our team to grow organically. We are nine now. The team members have different areas of expertise: dentists, data scientists, and software developers. I especially bring the medical expertise to the enterprise because I am still working at the Charité. The Charité itself supported us with data, knowledge, and space. The funding from the BIH Accelerator has now expired.
To what extent does dentalXrai benefit from Berlin as a science location?
Berlin has an extremely strong ecosystem in the field of medicine. BIH is a part of that. Of course, we benefit from this, especially the quick access to knowledge and contacts. The city is also an attractive location for data and software experts. This makes it easier for us to recruit good employees. The close connection to the Charité is also an essential location advantage for us.
What will happen to dentalXrai after leaving the BIH Accelerator?
A first milestone will be the market launch of our product at the beginning of next year. To do this, we first need certification as a medical product. The second step is to win over multipliers in the market, for example, manufacturers of X-ray machines and patient management systems. Our financing is secured for now.
And where is the future headed in the field of AI-driven dentistry?
Exactly in the direction we are striving for: making better use of existing data. In the future, we will know much more about individual patients than we do today: through x-rays, photos, clinical and case histories, maybe even social media data. Data dentistry will also significantly improve prevention in dentistry and personalise diagnosis and treatment. Another advantage for dentistry is that it is a field that picks up new trends a few months later rather than earlier. We won't be repeating mistakes made in other medical fields. (vdo)
- Insights HTW BerlinInsightsAn interview with Brain City Ambassador Prof. Dr. Kai Reinhardt. On October 28, he will be speaking at the second SpreeTalk at HTW University of…→
“The pandemic has been a catalyst for digitalization”
- Insights Anna Raysyan (private)InsightsBrain City Ambassador Anna Raysyan has been living in Berlin for 3,5 years now. She is a PhD student at the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und…→
Guest Contribution: “Berlin likes the bold!”
- Insights ©Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und TechnologieInsightsMany top-class researchers and scientists are being attracted to Brain City Berlin every year. The Dual Career Network Berlin helps partners of…→
Dual Career Network Berlin: getting a good start in Berlin
- Insights ©Matthias PicketInsightsDr. Anne Schreiter, Managing Director of the German Scholars Organization (GSO), reveals in the Brain City interview what alternative career…→
"Science is not just about research"
- Insights © Pocky Lee on UnsplashInsightsMatches in front of empty stadiums, virtual marathons, and many postponed events. Brain City Ambassador Professor Gabriele Mielke is tracking the…→
"Now is the time for innovators"
- Insights © AW Creative on UnsplashInsightsJuggling a degree course or teaching with the extra burden of the care of children or other family members is not an easy task. Both students and…→
From “Zoo School” to “Maternity Protection”: family-friendly universities
- Insights © HTW Berlin / Nikolas FahlbuschInsightsTeaching is currently only taking place online. Guest author Dr Dorothee Haffner, professor for Museology at HTW Berlin - University of Applied…→
Guest contribution: "Online teaching is more engaging than I thought"
- Insights Franziska SattlerInsightsIn the interview: Brain City ambassador Franziska Sattler on her series of events "Kaffeeklatsch mit Wissenschaft" (Talking Science over Coffee) at…→
"Science needs the trust of society"
- Insights Fotocredit: Ortner & Ortner / SiemensInsightsSiemensstadt 2.0 is a place of the future. The Berlin Senate has approved 9.9 million euros for the first research project "Electrical Drive…→
Siemensstadt 2.0: Research and industry closely linked
- Insights ©Credit Silke Oßwald/FMPInsightsBrain City interview: Professor Dr. Volker Haucke, Director at the Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP) and Professor of…→
In the balancing act between detail and overall concept
- Insights © hj barraza/UnsplashInsightsOur guest author Dr Barbara Schäuble is Professor for Diversity-Conscious Approaches in the Theory and Practice of Social Work at ASH Berlin and a…→
Guest contribution: A sudden change of course - classes moved online
- Insights ©DexLeChemInsightsLaunching a start-up while at university? Sonja Jost's success shows the way. Together with three fellow students, she founded DexLeChem after…→
"Bringing new knowledge to the market is very important to us"
- Insights ©Ivar Veermäe / Centre for EntrepreneurshipInsightsBrain City Berlin is the German capital of start-ups. Many young companies have successfully been founded through Berlin and Brandenburg based…→
"Society in particular benefits from high-tech start-ups" - university survey enters its third round
- Insights ©BIH|Thomas RafalzykInsightsAt the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) the main focus is on "translational research" - the transfer of findings from the research lab into clinical…→
“There are now many great female scientists, achieving great things”
- Insights ©fotografixx - istockphoto.comInsightsIn the digital age learning behaviour changes profoundly. It is student-centered and technology rich. As a member of the Erasmus+ funded project…→
Exploring the future of learning
- Insights © Brain City BerlinInsightsResearch results quickly and easily accessible online: The Open Access movement is campaigning for a paradigm shift in the field of publications and…→
Open Access: free knowledge for everyone
- Insights ©ESCP EUROPEInsights29.10.2019 | Professor Andreas Kaplan is a Brain City Berlin ambassador and Rector of ESCP Europe Business School Berlin. The economist's research is…→
"We have to be able to take everyone on the journey."
- Insights Gudrun Piechotta-HenzeInsightsIn time for the 2020/21 winter semester, ASH, the Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences Berlin, is launching the first bachelor's degree to…→
"We have to completely rethink nursing!" | 27.09.2019
- Insights ©Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin/Matthias HeydeInsightsThe courses offered by the HUWISU Summer University are varied and exciting, the target group is international: students from abroad who come to…→
When Berlin becomes one large seminar room ... | 15.08.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:]InsightsThe literary scholar Dr. Betiel Wasihun was traveling for science. After stops in Heidelberg, Yale, and Oxford, it brought her to Berlin two years…→
“Berlin is a perfect location. Especially if you don’t want to pursue just a single avenue of scientific work.” | 12.08.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:] Berlin University Alliance/Matthias HeydeInsightsTogether we are stronger. And also more successful. As the "Berlin University Alliance," the Technische Universität Berlin, the Freie Universität…→
Congratulations: The “Berlin University Alliance“ receives funding of the Excellence Strategy |19.07.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:] David Ausserhofer/IGBInsightsBerlin is one of the most water-rich cities in Germany. But climate change does not stop at the Havel, Spree or Wannsee either. Dr. Michael Hupfer is…→
"We're trying to take a look into the future." | 04.07.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:] Helena Lopes / UnsplashInsightsSend a digital lollipop or delicate fragrance notes via email or let the wind virtually blow against your face - research makes it possible. Learn…→
Experiencing the digital world with all senses | 18.06.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:] HZB/M. SetzpfandtInsightsIn these times of fake news and pseudo-scientific publications, many people find it difficult to distinguish legitimate from dubious content. Only 54%…→
"Science needs to make us curious" | 11.06.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:] Tim LandgrafInsightsBrain City Berlin is considered one of the leading locations in Germany working on artificial intelligence. About 30% of all German AI companies are…→
Fish, bees, and self-driving cars | 07.06.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:]InsightsScience and cultural heritage, freely accessible to everyone at any time on the Internet: The Open Access movement is promoting a paradigm shift in…→
Knowledge for All - Open Access in Berlin | 28.03.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:] Thomas Rosenthal - Museum für Naturkunde BerlinInsights660 million euros in 10 years: The Natural History Museum Berlin - Museum für Naturkunde Berlin receives financial support for the further development…→
Future of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin | 14.01.2019
- Insights [Translate to English:]InsightsSpace exploration is experiencing a revolution thanks to commercialization by such companies as Elon Musk's SpaceX. But did you know that more facets…→
From Berlin to the moon: the space industry is booming in Berlin | 03.09.2018