News Release

HKU Dentistry team uses artificial intelligence for early detection of gum inflammation

Peer-Reviewed Publication

The University of Hong Kong

visual examination

image: Three cases illustrating dentist's visual examination (b) and AI's detection (c) of gum problems (a) Intraoral photograph (b) Health status labelled by a calibrated dentist (green=healthy, red=diseased, yellow=questionable) (c) AI detection results view more 

Credit: Faculty of Dentistry, The University of Hong Kong

A groundbreaking study led by researchers at the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), in collaboration with multiple international institutions has successfully demonstrated the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in detecting gum inflammation, also known as gingivitis, from intraoral photographs.

This cutting-edge technology can revolutionise early detection and prevention of oral and systemic diseases linked to gum inflammation, such as tooth loss, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.

The study, published in the prestigious International Dental Journal, an official journal of the World Dental Federation (FDI), shows that AI algorithms can analyse patients' intraoral photographs to detect signs of inflammation like redness, swelling, and bleeding along the gum margin with over 90% accuracy, matching the visual examination of a dentist. This innovative technology enables population-wide monitoring of gum health and paves the way for more personalised dental care.

The study was conducted by researchers from the HKU Faculty of Dentistry, the Department of Computer Science at Hong Kong Chu Hai College, the School of Information Engineering at Guangdong University of Technology, and the Faculty of Dentistry at The National University of Malaysia. It involved developing and testing an AI model using a dataset of over 567 images of gums with varying degrees of inflammation and is one of the first to explore the use of AI in detecting gum inflammation.

Dr Walter Yu-Hang Lam, the study’s leading HKU researcher, emphasises the significance of the findings for the early detection and management of gum disease.

"Many patients do not attend regular dental check-ups, and they only seek dentists to alleviate pain when their teeth are at the end stage of dental diseases, in which tooth loss is inevitable, and only expensive rehabilitative treatments are available. Our study shows that AI can be a valuable screening tool in detecting and diagnosing gum disease, one of the key indicators of periodontal disease, allowing earlier intervention and better health outcomes for the population." He said.

The use of AI in dentistry has been gaining momentum in recent years, with researchers exploring various applications of the technology, from detecting cavities to predicting treatment outcomes to biomimetic design of artificial teeth. The use of AI in gum inflammation detection is a promising development that could revolutionize how gum disease is detected, treated, and even prevented.

Dr. Reinhard Chun-Wang Chau, an HKU co-investigator of the team, pointed out the benefits of using intraoral photographs in conjunction with AI technology and said: “Based on these intraoral photographs, patients can address the area that they did not clean well and seek dentist’ help at an earlier stage.”

The collaborative nature of this study is a testament to the power of interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchange. By bringing together experts from different fields and regions, the researchers can develop an AI model that could accurately detect gum inflammation, with important implications for public health and wellbeing.

For the project’s next stage, Dr Lam plans to utilize the AI system for community services, making the technology more accessible to elderly and underserved communities, with the aim of improving oral health outcomes and reducing health disparities.

The study, Accuracy of Artificial Intelligence-Based Photographic Detection of Gingivitis, is available on the International Dental Journal

The research team
Faculty of Dentistry, the University of Hong Kong
Principal Investigator:
- Dr. Walter Yu-Hang Lam, Clinical Assistant Professor in Prosthodontics and Founding Member of HKU Musketeers Foundation Institute of Data Science
- Professor Colman McGrath, Clinical Professor in Dental Public Health and Division Coordinator of Applied Oral Sciences & Community Dental Care
- Mr. Guan-Hua Li, Honorary Research Associate in Restorative Dental Sciences (formerly at the School of Information Engineering, Guangdong University of Technology)
- Dr. Khaing Myat Thu, Senior Research Assistant in Restorative Dental Sciences
- Dr. Reinhard Chun-Wang Chau, Clinical Research Coordinator in Restorative Dental Sciences

Department of Computer Science, Hong Kong Chu Hai College
- Professor Wai-Lun Lo, Professor and Head of the Department of Computer Sciences, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering
- Dr. Richard Tai-Chiu Hsung, Associate Professor

School of Information Engineering, Guangdong University of Technology
- Professor Wing-Kuen Ling, Hundred-people-plan Distinguished Professor

Faculty of Dentistry, The National University of Malaysia
- Dr In Meei Tew, Dentist Lecturer

Media enquiry:
Ms Melody Tang, Senior Communications Officer
Faculty of Dentistry, the University of Hong Kong
Tel: 2859 0494 / Email:

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