How dental providers can take action to benefit from data dentistry

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How dental providers can take action to benefit from data dentistry

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Data dentistry is here to stay and, according to experts, is expected to improve the quality, accessibility, affordability, safety and equity of healthcare. (Image: BEST-BACKGROUNDS/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

By Dental Tribune International

Tue. 10. August 2021

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BERLIN, Germany: In our modern society, data has become a key resource that allows for the storage and analysis of important information which then influences how decisions are made or what offers are available. This approach also applies to health and dental care, where providers aim to deliver quality care by processing information generated about their patients—a trend that is currently called data dentistry.

In a recent study, Prof. Falk Schwendicke and Dr Joachim Krois, from the Department of Oral Diagnostics, Digital Health and Health Services Research at Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin, have investigated how the era of big data is changing clinical care and research.

According to the authors, many industries started to embrace the data-driven paradigm early on and realised that digitalisation, artificial intelligence and data-driven technologies will shape our future in ways that we might not yet be able to comprehend. In healthcare, however, and especially in dentistry, the understanding that data might help provide better, safer, more reliable, affordable and accessible care has only recently started to gain acknowledgement.

Schwendicke and Krois summarised three action items that help make full use of the potential of data dentistry for the dental community. The first action item is availability, refinement and usage of data. The authors stated that dental data silos need to be broken up and made accessible for integration and use in research and clinical care. Patient-derived routine data will make it possible to capture the socioeconomic, behavioural or environmental determinants of oral health. Researchers should also aim at attaining similarly large, prospectively and purposively collected data. In this way, it will be possible to validate and enhance prediction models or simulations. Dental researchers should contribute to the development of data-driven applications as they have the necessary awareness of deficits and needs.

The second action item is demonstration of value and usefulness. Schwendicke and Krois say that data-driven healthcare is slowly permeating dentistry, although technological hurdles like high cost have limited its adoption. It will be necessary to increase the scientific underpinning of dental data-driven applications and demonstrate their impact for increasing overall health.

The third action item is education of the dental work force. The authors state: “Educating the dental workforce and prioritising data literacy in future dental curricula as well as supporting a closer cooperation between dental and data science professionals to bridge interprofessional gaps will address a range of the described implementation barriers.” It will be necessary to enhance the infrastructure and processes for cross-discipline data exchange and use.

Overall, the authors concluded that there are many points that need to be addressed in order to successfully utilise data dentistry. But if done correctly and in a timely manner, this practice can result in more precise, personalised, predictive and preventive care.

The study, titled “Data dentistry: How data are changing clinical care and research”, was published online on 8 July 2021 in the Journal of Dental Research, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

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