Researchers develop system for children’s oral health screening using smart devices

Researchers in Australia have recently received government funding for a project that aims to develop a system that would allow parents to take photographs of their children’s teeth. The photographs would then be sent to dental practitioners for evaluation. The novel system would improve access to routine dental care and reduce inappropriate or unnecessary referrals, thus helping to minimise travel and waiting times.

The project is being conducted in collaboration with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Telethon Kids Institute and is being led by a group of researchers from the University of Western Australia in Perth. It is part of a line of ongoing research that has been looking at the application of consumer-level technology for facilitating access to dental care.

The 12-month project aims to develop a system for screening infants and children using smartphone images taken by untrained people. The images would be accessed by the dental team, who would then help determine whether cases require a referral or can be delayed.

“The core of the teams’ 25 years of effort is to bring access to dental health to those at the marginal edges of society,” co-researcher Dr Marc Tennant, Winthrop Professor at the School of Human Sciences at the university, told Dental Tribune International, “This access is about many facets, including cost and social and geographic factors”.

Tennant explained that the present project focuses on the oral health of children, but that the wider programme includes adults.