Anatomically Constrained Deep Learning for Automating Dental CBCT Segmentation and Lesion Detection

Zhiyang Zheng, Hao Yan, Frank C. Setzer, Katherine J. Shi, Mel Mupparapu, Jing Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Compared with the rapidly growing artificial intelligence (AI) research in other branches of healthcare, the pace of developing AI capacities in dental care is relatively slow. Dental care automation, especially the automated capability for dental cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) segmentation and lesion detection, is highly needed. CBCT is an important imaging modality that is experiencing ever-growing utilization in various dental specialties. However, little research has been done for segmenting different structures, restorative materials, and lesions using deep learning. This is due to multifold challenges such as content-rich oral cavity and significant within-label variation on each CBCT image as well as the inherent difficulty of obtaining many high-quality labeled images for training. On the other hand, oral-Anatomical knowledge exists in dentistry, which shall be leveraged and integrated into the deep learning design. In this article, we propose a novel anatomically constrained Dense U-Net for integrating oral-Anatomical knowledge with data-driven Dense U-Net. The proposed algorithm is formulated as a regularized or constrained optimization and solved using mean-field variational approximation to achieve computational efficiency. Mathematical encoding for transforming descriptive knowledge into a quantitative form is also proposed. Our experiment demonstrates that the proposed algorithm outperforms the standard Dense U-Net in both lesion detection accuracy and dice coefficient (DICE) indices in multilabel segmentation. Benefited from the integration with anatomical domain knowledge, our algorithm performs well with data from a small number of patients included in the training. Note to Practitioners-This article proposes a novel deep learning algorithm to enable the automated capability for cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) segmentation and lesion detection. Despite the growing adoption of CBCT in various dental specialties, such capability is currently lacking. The proposed work will provide tools to help reduce subjectivity and human errors, as well as streamline and expedite the clinical workflow. This will greatly facilitate dental care automation. Furthermore, due to the capacity of integrating oral-Anatomical knowledge into the deep learning design, the proposed algorithm does not require many high-quality labeled images to train. The algorithm can provide good accuracy under limited training samples. This ability is highly desirable for practitioners by saving labor-intensive, costly labeling efforts, and enjoying the benefits provided by AI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9219218
Pages (from-to)603-614
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Biomedical image segmentation
  • healthcare automation
  • machine learning
  • neural networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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