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Is AI the Future of Periodontics?

Artificial intelligence is taking dentistry into a new era

Artificial intelligence, or AI, continues to generate plenty of discussion — as well as apprehension. The term AI refers to machines, such as computers, that can think like humans but with the ability to process information beyond the capacity of the human brain.

Concerns about AI safety are real. In fact, the United States Department of State recently commissioned a report leading to an action plan to increase the safety and security of advanced AI.1 Nonetheless, AI has much to offer.

But what has this to do with dentistry?

DENTAL APPLICATIONS

The field of dentistry has been reaping the benefits of AI for several years. The first robotic dental surgery system was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in placing dental implants in 2017. That same year the first autonomous guided dental implant placement system made its debut.2

Examples of AI in dental applications span a wide range, from enhancing administrative support to improving clinical functions like imaging, which aids in detecting and diagnosing oral health issues, including caries, endodontic problems, and oral cancer. And the use of AI in dentistry is only increasing. It’s proving to be a game changer in that it can foster earlier treatment due to faster and more accurate diagnostics. For instance, early detection of caries can pave the way toward minimally invasive treatments. AI also offers enhanced precision in surgical interventions, improving outcomes exponentially.2

THE PERIODONTAL ADVANTAGE

Because periodontal health is intricately linked to systemic health it’s important that the next generation of periodontal providers be armed with the latest advancements in the field. At least that’s the view of Nathalia P. Andrade, DDS, MSc, PhD, a clinical professor of periodontics and endodontics in the Department of Periodontics and Endodontics at the University at Buffalo (UB) School of Dental Medicine.3

Andrade received a $5,000 seed grant to incorporate AI into a course on periodontics at the highly regarded dental school. Now, with the help of experts in the field, periodontal residents at UB are learning how AI is used in diagnosis, treatment, and maintenance of periodontal diseases.3

POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS

Andrade believes that AI can help periodontal diagnosis and surgery become faster and more precise. She notes that the course, set to be offered every other spring, is designed to supplement the clinical experiences of students in postgraduate programs in three-dimensional surgical digital planning, microscope surgery, and AI as applied to periodontics. But she adds that her main goal is to teach students to use critical thinking while using AI tools.

REFERENCES

  1. Egan M. AI could pose ‘extinction-level’ threat to humans and the US must intervene.
  2. American Dental Association. Dentistry — Overview of Artificial and Augmented Intelligence Uses in Dentistry.
  3. Kaiser L. UB dental school professor discusses how AI can advance periodontic treatment. 
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