A business formed by MIT graduates examines and annotates dental X-rays to assist dentists in providing more thorough care.
A hospital radiologist is frequently represented as a specialist who spends hours studying X-rays to make diagnosis while sitting in a dark room. In contrast, your dentist also needs to do surgery, interact with patients, supervise employees, and manage their practice in addition to reading X-rays. Dentists typically examine X-rays in bright spaces on non-radiology-specific computers while the patient is frequently seated right next to them.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising if various dental professionals recommend different treatments after seeing the same X-ray.
Given everything they have to deal with, dentists are performing well, according to Wardah Inam, SM ’13, PhD ’16.
Inam is a co-founder of Overjet, a business started by MIT graduates to analyze and annotate X-rays for dentists and insurance companies. The objective of Overjet is to remove subjectivity from X-ray readings in order to enhance patient care.
With Alexander Jelicich ’13, Inam co-founded the business. “It’s about going toward more precision medicine, where we have the appropriate therapies at the right time,” Inam says. “Technology can be useful here. Once the condition has been quantified, selecting the best course of therapy will be a breeze.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given Overjet the go-ahead to identify and map cavities as well as measure bone levels to assist in the diagnosis of periodontal disease, a common but curable gum infection that weakens the jawbone and other tissues supporting the teeth.
Dental X-rays are analyzed and annotated using Overjet’s software.
With color overlays that show the precise amount of bone loss, the position and severity of cavities, the type of X-ray obtained, potential tooth impacts, and other information, Overjet’s software automatically analyzes and annotates dental X-rays in almost real-time. With permission from Overjet
Overjet’s software is made to assist dentists in showing patients the issues they are seeing and explaining why they are prescribing particular treatments, in addition to assisting dentists in detecting and treating disorders.
Tens of millions of X-rays have already been studied by the business. They are presently employed by dental offices around the country and collaborate with insurance providers who cover more than 75 million customers in the US. Inam is hopeful that the information Overjet is examining will be utilized to further simplify processes while enhancing patient care.
According to Inam, the goal of Overjet is to advance clinical accuracy, efficiency, and patient-centeredness in order to promote dental health.
It’s been a fast-paced journey for Inam, who had little prior knowledge of the dentistry sector before her interest was ignited by a negative encounter in 2018.
Identifying the source of the issue
Inam says she became interested in entrepreneurship at a young age when she arrived to MIT in 2010 to pursue her master’s and later her PhD in electrical engineering and computer science.
For me, MIT was a learning laboratory where I could experiment and discover what I liked and didn’t like, according to Inam. Additionally, you may truly go into a topic if you are curious about it.
At the Sloan School of Management, Inam took entrepreneurship seminars, and eventually he cofounded many businesses with friends.
When I first arrived at MIT, “I didn’t know I wanted to create a firm,” Inam claims. “I was aware of my desire to address significant issues. I had to make the choice between a career in academics and one in business, but I ultimately chose entrepreneurship because I want to see things move quickly and have an influence on the world.
Inam and a team of researchers used machine learning to wireless communications to build biological sensors during her postdoc at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). These sensors could follow a person’s movements, detect falls, and monitor respiration rate.
She didn’t get interested in dentistry until after she graduated from MIT, when she switched dentists and began a completely new course of treatment. She requested her X-rays and asked other dentists to have a look since she was perplexed by the shift, but each dentist offered a different diagnosis and recommended course of action.
At that time, Inam made the decision to learn more about dentistry for herself. She did this by reading books, watching videos on YouTube, and finally speaking with dentists. Before she knew what had happened, she was spending more time studying dentistry than working.
Inam chose to take part in the MIT Hacking Medicine competition the same week she resigned her job. She began assembling her team and making contacts there. The E14 Fund, an investment firm linked with Media Lab, provided Overjet with its initial capital.
She claims that if it weren’t for the E14 fund taking a chance on us, “I don’t think we would’ve existed.”
Inam discovered that the sheer amount of viable treatments for each condition is a significant factor in the difference in treatment recommendations across dentists. A filling, a crown, a root canal, a bridge, and other dental procedures, for example, can be used to treat a cavity.
Dentists must do millimeter-level evaluations to measure the severity and development of periodontal disease. The optimal course of treatment depends on how far along the condition is.
Technology, according to Inam, “may play a significant part in improving not just the diagnosis but also in communicating with the patients more efficiently so they understand and don’t have to go through the confused process I experienced of questioning who’s correct.”
Before the business started integrating its product directly into dental practices, Overjet was first designed as a tool to aid insurance companies in streamlining dental claims. Some of the biggest dental businesses in the country, including Guardian Insurance, Delta Dental, Dental Care Alliance, and Jefferson Dental and Orthodontics, use Overjet on a daily basis.
Today, Overjet’s software analyzes and annotates the pictures automatically when a dental X-ray is imported onto a computer. When the image finally shows up on the computer screen, it already has details on the type of X-ray used, potential dental impacts, the precise degree of bone loss with color overlays, the location and severity of cavities, and more.
The study provides dentists with additional knowledge to discuss treatment alternatives with patients.
In order to interact with you, the dentist or hygienist just has to synthesize that knowledge, according to Inam. So they’ll show you the X-rays with Overjet’s comments and tell you, “I’m prescribing this therapy because you have 4 millimeters of bone loss, it’s in red, that’s higher than the 3 millimeters you had last time you visited.”
Additionally, Overjet includes previous data on every patient, monitoring bone loss on every tooth and assisting dentists in identifying situations where illness is advancing more fast.
The patients should certainly visit the dentist more frequently, according to Inam. “We’ve seen situations when a cancer patient with dry mouth goes from nothing to something exceedingly awful in six months between visits,” she adds. The key is to use data to alter the way we deliver care, formulate strategies, and provide services to various patient types.
FDA approvals for Overjet relate to two serious illnesses. They also enable the business to carry out industry-level analysis and support dental offices in comparing themselves to their counterparts.
The same technology is used, according to Inam, to assist practitioners better analyze clinical performance and streamline operations. Every patient at every clinic may be examined to see how the software can help the practices deliver better care.
In the future, Inam envisions Overjet becoming essential to practically every facet of dental procedures.
For a while, these radiographs were digitized, but they were never used since the computers couldn’t interpret them, according to Inam. Overjet transforms unstructured input into information that can be analyzed. We are currently constructing the fundamental infrastructure. Eventually, we hope to expand the platform to enhance whatever service the practice may offer, essentially turning it into the practice’s operating system to assist providers in doing their duties more successfully.