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How Is Artificial Intelligence Aiding The Dental Industry?
June 28, 2019  |  General Dentistry

How Is Artificial Intelligence Aiding The Dental Industry?

When the topic for a discussion is ‘Artificial Intelligence’ (AI), we tend to create the picture of a robot in our minds. But AI today, encompasses much more with its implementation reaching far and wide into the very basic applications of our day-to-day lives.

The term Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) is a virtue of the intelligence level of your computer that fully matches with human intelligence. Basically, artificial intelligence uses the data that is based on our usage of computers. It utilizes that data to:

  • Make predictions

  • Learn about your preferences

  • Act and create results accordingly

Artificial Intelligence is indeed a broad term. It can be further categorized into sub-fields based on its way of functioning. Some sub-fields of AI are:

      • Machine learning - Even if the computer is not explicitly programmed, they are able to find insights in data by using statistics.

      • Deep learning- This is the learning process using large and complex data. For instance, the image and speech recognition tasks that your machine performs.

      • Cognitive computing- This involves image and speech interpretation and responding to them appropriately

      • Computer vision- It recognizes the content in photos and videos.

      • Natural language processing- It is the ability of machines to both analyze and generate human speech

Application of AI in the Dental Industry:

You can check out one of the very practical and much applauded applications of this latest and newest technological advancement - Plug your smart toothbrush into your smartphone and put it inside your mouth. The brush actually scans your teeth. Images are automatically uploaded to the Cloud. They are analyzed by AI and if a cavity or a hairline crack is seen in your aching tooth it is scanned. The preliminary analysis are transmitted to your dentist, who prompts you to schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

AI is entering the dental industry: Reading Radiographs:

An important branch of dentistry that is beginning to witness change due to AI is, radiology. A common and almost routine task that dentists need to perform is observing X-Rays to find carries. The steps involved in doing so are:

      • processing conversations with the patient

      • Taking the patient’s history

      • Analyzing the radiographic images

      • Conducting intra oral exams

Dentists in the process leverage their training and experience, learn from mistakes and patient feedback only to enhance the practice of dentistry over the years. After all this, the rate of misdiagnosis is quite significant!

Now, if machines were to be taught to read radio graphs, they would require a huge data input. This essentially includes:

      • understand information in the form of spoken language, written text or images

      • Make important decisions based on those information

      • Learn from mistakes and amend those decisions.

Above all, all this should take place in about the same time that is required by a human brain! Hence, until recently, application of AI in the real world dental industry has neither been much technically feasible nor financially cost-effective.

Shah, N., Bansal, N., & Logani, A. (2014). Recent advances in imaging technologies in dentistryWorld journal of radiology6(10), 794–807. doi:10.4329/wjr.v6.i10.794

Nevertheless, there are some clear advantages that machines offer:

      • Computers are not biased. Therefore, while making decisions, no biases creep in.

      • Machines do not get fatigued and can work for 24/7 at a stretch

      • Even repetitive jobs do not seem to be monotonous to them and they do not get bored.

      • Finally and consequently, machines are fast.

From the discussion above, it is somewhat evident therefore that, till date, AI systems are largely one dimensional. They can be trained and programmed for a specific task (for instance, read radiographs and predict carries). But the job they’re doing - it’s done pretty faster than humans!

A latest example of AI application in modern dentistry:

A particular innovation in this industry that has taken advantage of big data is ‘ D Assistant’. This has been programmed to function as a virtual assistant to serve as a helping hand to not only doctors but also dental assistants. They can perform tasks like:

      • Analyze big data that includes images and other records

      • Make suggestions during an on-going dental procedure

      • Schedule appointments and give reminders for routine check ups and other necessary dental consultations.

Today, examples of AI application in our day-to-day lives are many. Speech-to-text, social media algorithms, Google search results - they are all examples of AI. The dental world is also putting a continuous effort in implementing AI in its various fields. Things that are being targeted are:

      1. Graphical processing units

      2. The Internet of Things (IoT), which collects data from connected devices

      3. Advanced algorithms, that could one day predict rare events

      4. Application processing interfaces (API), which is a code that enables the addition of AI functionality to some existing products

The significant hindrances in the way of applying AI are, insufficient data and inaccurate data. Therefore, clinicians today should focus on collecting sufficient and accurate amounts of data to be able to fully utilize it in the future. If dental experts can do that, they can go a long way in providing greater care and comfort to the patients.