ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — As kids gear up to get that big Halloween candy haul, it’s also a time to talk about cavities! Now, an app being developed locally is aiming to empower families to get ahead of any potential dental issues and overall improve childhood oral health.

“So far there is no app or device that can detect tooth cavities.”

That is, until now…

Dr. Nisreen Al Jallad is an Assistant Professor at URMC’s Eastman Institute for Oral Health. She is piloting a new app currently in development at the facility which uses artificial intelligence to detect cavities in the earliest stages.

“Tooth cavity is one of the most common childhood disease and when children have cavities they may not tell about their pain, but it’s going to compromise their eating, sleeping, studying and their daily activitiy,” Dr. Al Jallad says.

“If we can provide parents or caregivers with a tool, can show them the first stage of the cavitiy, they can prevent it and they can close the door against tooth cavitiy for babies and pain,” she adds.

The app is called ‘SMARTeeth’ and here’s how it works: a parent or caregiver takes a photo of their child’s teeth and through A.I. technology, it will detect any signs of tooth decay.

How? Dr. Jiebo Luo is a computer science professor who has been working on the creation and development of the app for years. He notes the first step is having dental professional annotate images of teeth, with various stages and forms of decay.

“We take the annotated data and we train artificial intelligence model, which is specifically a deep-neuro-network. And the network, after training, can detect dental tooth caries at roughly the same accuracy as a trained dentist.,” Dr. Luo.

The goal is to also help bridge a gap when it comes to dental access. This year, the Institute was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to expand the efforts beyond the app, itself.

“Our goal is to build smart and connected oral health community such that we can utilize community centers and community health workers to help install the app, train the parents how to use the app and also take additional tests such as x-ray so in the end we want to connect the families with the dental health providers in the network and then revolutionize the dental care from the current practice,” Dr. Luo says.

SMARTeeth is not quite available for free download just yet. It is still in pilot testing stages and security aspects are being finalized.