Artificial intelligence (AI) has taken the world by storm. There are daily reports of AI’s use and misuse. Tools such as ChatGPT, Jasper, Murf, or Image.AI are free or reasonably priced, so it’s easy for anyone to create or disseminate information. Dentistry is not immune to the impact of AI. In fact, it’s moving at an amazing rate in dentistry and will be an essential component of everything we do within five to 10 years. As hygienists, how will it affect what we do, and can it save us time?
Hygienists often struggle with the demands of practicing within a short amount of time. Practice owners and managers may allow only 45 to 60 minutes to accomplish all that we’re licensed to perform. In hygiene school we’re taught the essential requirements of providing patient care—from the intra- and extraoral evaluation, to complete periodontal charting, to patient education and accurate documentation—along with treatment requirements.
Yet, once in the “real world,” many of us struggle with what we know is important versus what the practice allows. Many have decided the struggle is not worth it and have left the profession. With AI, the time to provide appropriate care while working within the time confines of the practice is greatly enhanced.
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What’s the right AI for dental hygiensts?
There are a number of products available in dentistry that lend themselves to improving a hygienist’s ability to provide excellent care and keep a timely schedule. Radiographic interpretation of images using AI has provided the ability to demonstrate their diseases to patients. Patients may believe technology more than what a clinician says, thus combining the use of radiological AI tools with the information we provide improves patient understanding and case acceptance.
When the dentist provides the evaluation and diagnosis following the information presented by the hygienist and AI, patients often understand things better, which saves time in the case presentation process. In the fast-paced dental environment, dentists and hygienists may miss things that could save the patient time and money if treated early. AI provides the “There may be something here” so that clinicians can decide to treat or not. AI’s use in radiological evaluation is not a diagnostic tool; that is ultimately the dentist’s responsibility. But it allows for time-saving information gathering.
Complete periodontal and restorative charting is another area where hygienists struggle with time. We know that a complete periodontal charting is required annually and should include probing depths, bleeding, recession, clinical attachment loss, furcation involvement, and mobility. Yet many hygienists don’t have time to do a complete assessment. AI periodontal voice charting enables hygienists to complete this necessary assessment while also educating patients on health or disease. AI voice recognition using natural language processing understands a hygienist’s workflow and aids in the time crunch, saving time and providing excellent care for patients.
AI saves time for the administrative team as well. Triaging patients, understanding salivary diagnostics, evaluating cracks, providing achievable smile mockups, identifying patient calls, and marketing ideas are all available to save time and money. Understanding the pros and cons and sensitivity and specificity of AI is important when deciding on products.
I recommend investigating all-in-one products. No time is saved if you must open multiple AI windows from your practice management system. Technology should help, not hinder care. As patients have become more tech savvy, they want dental teams and practices to elevate the value of customer service with technology. AI can provide greater personalized care while increasing productivity and providing significant time savings. Understanding the nuances of AI as hygienists is important in moving toward a patient-centered practice.