The risks posed by Artificial Intelligence to Dental Practices

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The risks posed by Artificial Intelligence to Dental Practices

June 05, 2024

Unless you live in a cave, you have probably heard a lot about Artificial Intelligence lately.  AI can drive cars, filter spam from your inbox (Yay!), and tailor the ads you see when browsing to suit your preferences.  Applications that seem to be straight from science fiction are on the horizon. 

In dentistry, AI is already able to identify caries from radiographs, plan complex orthodontic treatments, and generate narratives for insurance claim submission, and a lot of development efforts are going into even more exciting stuff on the horizon in both the clinical and administrative areas of dentistry.  The potential exists to improve patient clinical outcomes while simultaneously making a patient's interaction with a practice smoother and less labor-intensive.

Can AI also pose a threat to dental practices?

Definitely.  One subset of Artificial Intelligence is called "Generative AI."  Generative AI involves using AI to create original content.  The initial use of generative AI was to produce simple documents or translate them from one language to another, but AI can do far more.  AI can produce lengthy written material that is grammatical, reasonably well written, and embodies the collective wisdom of the internet.  To illustrate this, we asked Chat GPT, a leading AI portal, to create an article on embezzlement in dental practices.  You can read what it produced HERE .  It isn't quite perfect.  Some of the terminology is a bit off (and as the acknowledged experts in our field, we could probably do better conceptually.) However, it is a passable article that captures many of the things we would tell you about this topic, and those who are not themselves experts in this field would view it as an article written by someone with some knowledge.

Generative AI can also be used to create other types of content including music (our CEO recently attended a conference on dental speaking where all of the walk-on songs for speakers were AI-generated, and they were impressive) and more ominously to edit or even produce pictures and even videos.

There are some implications for dental practice owners:

  1. AI allows people to sound like experts, even if they are not, and can make the differentiation between true experts and pseudo-experts more challenging than it already was.  That passable article on embezzlement produced by Chat GPT is a great example.  It took no knowledge whatsoever to ask Chat GPT to "write a 1,000-word article on embezzlement in dental practices" which was the exact query used.  As experts, we see the flaws in the article, and they areas we could improve, but a layperson probably could not.
  2. It is only as smart as the internet.  AI can draw consensus data from the internet and synthesize it, but it has no independent ability to judge the veracity of the information.   Picture AI being empowered to approve drugs for the FDA with this approval based on information found on the internet, and you can imagine how badly this could end up.
  3. While resumes and cover letters once provided the chance for a dentist to assess the powers of self-expression for a job applicant, AI's ability to produce or clean up a resume or cover letter has made assessing communications skills from these or any other documents much harder.
  4. AI can help someone forget reference letters that are more convincing than those written by a job applicant themselves.
  5. At the extreme end, generative AI would allow for the falsification of items like radiographs or intra-oral photographs.  Arguably, existing editing software like Adobe Photoshop already permits this, but AI can make image alteration quicker, easier, and more convincing,


AI-generated image of the Eiffel Tower in the desert
AI-generated image of the Eiffel Tower in the desert


AI can exacerbate the long-term trend towards documents and images being less than fully trustworthy, and particularly in the context of hiring, dentists need to be aware of this.

Like many technologies, AI has the potential to be a double-edged sword.  While it offers the promise of improving the lives of patients and those working in dentistry, there are also some dangers that need to be recognized.

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