Indian dental students say curriculum lacks AI instruction

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Dental students say artificial intelligence should be included in curricula

Dental students in India have reported that they gained most of their knowledge about artificial intelligence from social media. (Image: Alexander Limbach/Shutterstock)

LUCKNOW, India: Artificial intelligence (AI), a rapidly evolving technology, is increasingly relevant in various medical fields, including dentistry, for tasks like diagnosis, treatment planning and data handling. A new study seeking to understand how AI is perceived by dental students in India has identified potential obstacles to its integration into dental practice. While a majority found AI in dentistry exciting and believed it would lead to major advancements, there were mixed feelings about AI replacing dentists and its role as a definitive diagnostic tool.

The cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted across eight randomly selected dental schools in India, and the participants included both undergraduate and postgraduate dental students. The study, which ran from August to October 2022, used a questionnaire that included both close-ended and open-ended questions covering socio-demographic information, sources of AI knowledge and perceptions of AI’s scope and application in dentistry. Out of the 937 respondents, the majority were female (67.7%), and undergraduates made up 84.3% of the participants.

The study found that awareness and basic knowledge of AI in dentistry were relatively high among both undergraduates and postgraduates, 62.8% understanding AI’s working principles, but that awareness of its dental applications was divided. The primary source of information about AI for these students was social media (55.4%). Based on this finding, the researchers recommended integrating AI into current dental curricula to ensure dental students are actually receiving relevant, evidence-based information.

According to the study, while the students saw AI as a significant advancement in dentistry, they did not believe it would replace dentists, mainly owing to the sensory and interpersonal aspects of dental care—although very few said that AI is not patient-friendly or that it has a limited future. Indeed, the majority of the dental students found AI exciting and saw it as a valuable tool for diagnosis, prognosis and treatment planning. They recognised its potential in areas like radiographic diagnosis, soft-tissue lesion diagnosis, 3D implant positioning and forensic dentistry.

Significant barriers to AI adoption in dentistry were also reported, including insufficient training at dental school and a lack of awareness and of technical resources. Additionally, concerns about the cost-effectiveness of AI and its inclusion in the dental curriculum were noted.

Most students agreed that data used in machine learning must be handled carefully to comply with data protection regulations, ensuring patient data confidentiality. The findings also suggest that combining data using AI requires collaboration among clinicians, researchers, policymakers and the industry to maximise benefits and minimise patient harm.

Limitations of the study include its sample size and methodology, which might have influenced the results. The authors recommended that future research should focus on developing diagnostic models of greater accuracy and guiding policymakers on integrating AI into dental education.

The study, titled “Attitude, perception and barriers of dental professionals towards artificial intelligence”, was published in the September/October 2023 issue of Journal of Oral Biology and Craniofacial Research.

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