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Inside Dentistry
July 2021
Volume 17, Issue 7

Artificial Intelligence

Supporting and augmenting clinicians’ decision-making to increase accuracy and efficiency

Reena Gajjar, DDS

When people think about the concept of artificial intelligence (AI), some have visions of futuristic robots or superintelligent devices that could eventually overpower mankind, take away our independence, and destroy what makes us unique. Although Hollywood plots like to focus on the notion that the development of AI will lead to computers that become dangerously self-aware, in reality, AI enables machines to make decisions that would otherwise require human expertise and provides them with the ability to learn and adapt to help people solve problems faster. AI is an interdisciplinary science that leverages many different disciplines that work together, such as machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, data science, and natural language processing.

AI was first introduced by Alan Turing in 1950 when he published a paper that proposed the concept of a "thinking machine" that could learn and reason at the same level as human beings. His famous question, "Can machines think?" and what would become his namesake test, the "Turing Test," which assesses if a machine's responses can be distinguished from those of a human, inspired the advancements in AI that have been made during the last 70 years. Today, AI has infiltrated almost every industry, from transportation and finance to ecommerce, art, healthcare, and more. Almost every device and service that we use contains some form of AI that impacts our daily lives.

In the profession of dentistry, innovations in AI have facilitated many ways to improve accuracy and efficiency. Neural network machine learning is delivering faster and more consistent results and supporting not only dental clinicians but also dental insurance organizations, dental labs, educational institutions, and patients.

For example, deep learning using computer vision is currently being employed for the visual analysis of oral radiographs. Research has indicated that there is a large variation in the accuracy and reliability of dental decay detection that is based upon clinical experience and other factors. Fortunately, studies have shown that AI support can help clinicians detect approximately 25% more dental lesions than they would be able to detect unassisted. Because AI models are consistent, repeatable, and reduce human error, incorporating them into the clinical setting can help compensate for variations in accuracy and improve the quality of patient care.

Although AI is not intended to replace the reasoning of a human dental clinician, when offered as a support tool, it improves efficiency by turning human minutes into AI seconds. Time savings in the dental workflow result in the ability to see more patients and improve their overall experience. In addition, patient-facing AI detection tools can increase patience confidence and improve treatment acceptance.

Dental payers are also leveraging AI within their review processes. Fraud, waste, and abuse in the dental insurance industry results in millions of dollars in inaccurately reviewed and paid claims. AI can assist dental payers in performing more effective and efficient reviews of radiographs, procedure codes, and appeals, and fingerprinting allows for the identification of duplicate claim submissions and assists in flagging potentially fraudulent providers, which results in substantial savings.

Another area of the profession that is incorporating the benefits of AI into its processes is the dental laboratory. From tooth preparation assessment and margin detection to the automated design and fabrication of restorations, AI is becoming embedded in every step of the dental laboratory workflow.

Dental schools are incorporating AI and other related technologies, such as virtual reality, into their curriculums and training modalities. AI can help traditional educational institutions to become more relevant in their delivery of customized quality education. In addition, AI can be used to help determine and evaluate clinicians' skills in order to identify training opportunities.

As AI continues to improve and its applications become more integrated, the profession of dentistry will be transformed. The opportunities seem endless. Machines can do almost anything; they are only limited by the imagination of the human minds creating them. And as Turing once said, "Those who can imagine anything, can create the impossible."

About the Author

Reena Gajjar, DDS, is a prosthodontist and the vice president of strategy and innovation at Abōva Technologies.

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