Artificial Intelligence in Dentistry

by Dr. Marina Polonsky, DDS, MSc

Artificial Intelligence

If you grew up in the ’70s and ’80s like me, “The Terminator” movies portrayed artificial intelligence (AI) and robots as something to be feared. We all rooted for Sarah and John Connor in the war for the survival of humanity against the rise of Skynet’s synthetic intelligence. These self-aware military machines, able to learn from their previous mistakes and predict your next move, closely resemble what AI is doing in healthcare and other fields. Two decades later, our children grew up with another image of AI: Wall-e, a friendly and lovable janitor robot left on an uninhabitable earth to clean up the garbage, while obese and lazy humans were living on a spaceship using floating chairs to move around because they lost the ability to use their legs to move. AI wakes humanity from the self-induced coma, saves the world, and restores peace and harmony.

Today we are relying more and more on AI. We talk to Alexa and Siri, ask them to write for us by dictating into our smartphones, turning lights on and off, controlling thermostats in our homes, adaptive cruise control drives our cars, and social media platforms suggest things we might be interested in based on our previous searches. Sometimes I feel like my phone is reading my mind!

The main component of AI is a neural network designed like a human brain, with many neurons that connect as it learns, the same as us. Input data may be voice, text, or image. The AI neural network will process this data and provide an output, which could be a diagnosis, prognosis, treatment plan or disease prediction. For example, many healthcare applications are based on training data consisting of a database of clinical cases (photos, X-rays, clinical scenarios). If clinical findings are input correctly, AI can provide cephalometric analysis, differentiate radiographic lesions from typical structures, and treatment plan the optimal surgical approach to minimize the doctor’s time and patient’s post-operative complications with maximum accuracy.

AI applications in the dental field have yet to be expected. Still, diagnostic services, such as Diagnocat, offering reasonably priced monthly subscription fees to help with dental image diagnostics, caries detection, radiography, pathology, nerve mapping and CBCT reporting, are quickly becoming available. AI is never tired from staying up late the night before, jetlagged from a transatlantic flight after a lovely European vacation, or hung over from too much wine. As a result, we can expect less human error, early detection, and higher accuracy. Guided surgery is already here, integrating photos, 3D scans and CBCT to plan perfect implant placement. What’s next? If we can perfectly immobilize the patient, do we need a human operator to perform this surgery? Or can a robotic arm go through the sequence of burs set at the perfect position, length and angle to create the ideal osteotomy and place the implant without human help and supervision? If yes, does this mean we will soon be obsolete? How many of us still insist on seeing the cashier at the grocery store instead of opting for the quicker self-checkout? I know it will not happen while I practice, but is it possible? I hope not!

Today, AI in healthcare has several potential advantages: better decision-making leading to fewer post-operative complications, fewer unnecessary procedures, and higher quality of life for the doctor and the patient.

About the Editor

Dr. Marina Polonsky graduated from the University of Toronto, Canada in 1999, with the Dean’s Gold Medal of Achievement and maintains a private general practice in Ottawa, Canada, with focus on multi-disciplinary treatment utilizing lasers of different wavelengths. Dr. Polonsky holds a Mastership with WCLI (World Clinical Laser Institute), Master of Science in Lasers in Dentistry degree from RWTH University in Aachen, Germany. She is a recipient of Mastership Certificate with ALD (Academy of Laser Dentistry), is a recognized member of the ALD Speaker Bureau and was recently elected to the ALD board of directors. Dr. Polonsky is a founder of the Canadian Dental Laser Institute (CDLI), an AGD/PACE approved organization dedicated to providing quality continuing education in Laser Dentistry in Canada. CDLI is the only ALD affiliated international study club in Canada. Dr. Polonsky is actively involved in the educational aspect of dental laser technology by teaching laser safety courses, Diode and Erbium certification courses, as well as lecturing world-wide on laser-assisted dentistry. She is a faculty member and a Clinical Mentor for Biolase Technologies Inc. and has been involved in the development of the newest all-tissue laser system, Waterlase Express. Dr. Polonsky is the author of multiple scientific papers and case reports on the uses of lasers in dentistry, she is the chief editor for JLAD (Journal of Laser-Assisted Dentistry) and a peer-reviewer for LIDS (Lasers in Dental Science) and Odontology by Springer. She is the Editor of Laser Dentistry and General Dentistry issues of the Oral Health Journal and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Oral Health Journal.

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