Data Science: Imagine the Possibilities

Applying these processes could benefit laboratories

Inside Dental Technology
June 2019
Volume 10, Issue 6

Terry Fine

Since the advent of dental laboratory management software, laboratories have been thrust into the world of big data, inundated with numbers, statistics, and client information. Consuming and utilizing such data requires the application of data science, which employs scientific methods, processes, and algorithms to gather, analyze, and implement valuable information to benefit a company.

Data science seems to be a current buzzword in the big business world, but the truth is that many laboratories think they are too small to integrate data science fully. When a small laboratory is faced with a new addition, it is not likely to prioritize hiring a data scientist over investing in digital dentistry or adding to their laboratory team or sales force. That does not mean the dental laboratory industry cannot benefit from this vast amount of data. Big data analysis can provide significant insight and advantages over standard data usage that can help laboratories stay ahead of the game and optimize efficiency with the ebb and flow of busy and stagnant seasons. The following are ways other industries have integrated data science into their workflows and illustrate how doing the same could greatly benefit dental laboratories.

Anomaly Detection

A primary usage of data science is to identify standard patterns and anomalies by analyzing large pools of information. The security industry has applied this process to the way security footage is analyzed. A program will monitor image patterns and use artificial intelligence (AI) to learn what is normal for the footage. After this foundation is built, the AI can then trigger alerts when the image does not look normal and alert security guards or police to take further action.

This same analysis could be applied in a dental laboratory. Imagine having all the data collected through prescription forms and digital case submissions analyzed automatically and input into algorithms to help detect anomalies. This innovation could continuously update dentist preference profiles and flag any concerns in prescription forms that could potentially lead to remakes.

Future-Proof Profit

For the most part, every business suffers from slow seasons. Insulating your profit from a lower case flow can be aided by implementing a tactic used in the retail industry. There are stores that input their entire sales data over a period of time into an algorithm that will detect patterns. This algorithm will pinpoint the sections of time when customers are less likely to purchase and vice versa. Armed with this foreknowledge, management is able to plan promotions around this stagnation to offset the projected decrease in sales. Being able to predict when your laboratory is likely to encounter a fluctuation in cases can be incredibly valuable. It would allow you to plan marketing campaigns, employee promotions or raises, and new employee acquisition. Future-proofing your profit requires the willingness to evolve and shift with the times. The ability to predict future events to a degree of certainty through the analysis of such data could really facilitate these transitions.

Automated Case Design

A perfect example of how data science can be easily integrated into the dental laboratory industry is the automation of case design, specifically for crowns. Similar to its analog predecessor, crown libraries, automated case design works based on an aggregation of all case information. Utilizing this information and a scan of the opposing and surrounding dentition, automated case design can provide a crown design that offers perfect fit and esthetics. This innovation has progressed further and is now being used today in the automation of clear aligner design and production. This use of data science has allowed for solutions that can streamline laboratory workflows and exceed client expectations, ultimately leading to higher client satisfaction and loyalty. If the introduction of big data analysis allows for such innovations as automated case design, imagine all the growth that could come about by incorporating it even more.

These are just a few examples of how data science is being applied in other industries and could be helpful in laboratory management. Looking at more ways that such methods are being applied by other businesses could inspire adaptations in laboratories. There are novel ideas and approaches all around us; one only needs to look and keep an open mind.