Integrating Patients into the Restorative Workflow
Executive Editor Daniel Alter, MSc, MDT, CDT
Innovation in dental technology has been exploding in recent years. With the advent of CAD/CAM, the first step to digitize the process is scanning the oral topography—whether intraorally or by scanning a model—and integrating the virtual rendering into a digital workflow. For several years, scanning in dental technology was limited to the oral environment; however these scans were only focused on providing information necessary to fabricate the prosthesis. In a patient-first or patient-centric philosophy, more information is needed to successfully restore the patient to proper function and esthetics. Rendering the patient's face, lip support, and functional oral animation could potentially provide the restorative dental team with a higher level of understanding to provide the optimal or most advantageous restorative outcome.
Several dental-specific vendors have developed scanners to provide face rendering. However, there are efforts within and outside the dental space to capture pertinent information using a smartphone or a DSLR camera. Facebook has a facial recognition feature as part of its platform, whereby an individual is identified in their or others' photos through the deployment of artificial intelligence. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other security agencies with cameras in high-profile areas use similar face-scanning technology to identify potential threats.
How can a laboratory obtain the necessary technology to achieve a truly patient-centric restorative digital workflow? Can a laboratory offer this technology as a service to its dental clients? Can this technology allow us to augment our restorative solutions according to how it interacts with facial contours? I believe the answer to all of these questions is an overwhelming "yes."
A scanning system used widely in the plastic surgery space is VECTRA 3D Imaging by Canfield (canfieldsci.com). While Canfield has several imaging products, the most interesting to dental technicians is the VECTRA H1, a handheld imaging system that brings clinical-quality 3-dimensional imaging to any practice and dental laboratory. This lightweight, easy-to-handle image capture system deploys precision optics with stereophotogrammetry technology and has the ability to stitch together multiple scans for high-resolution 3D images. The size of the DSLR with a specialized lens is what allows it to capture 3D images and stitch them together to attain a high-definition 3D color image of the patient's head.
There are also smartphone and tablet apps that provide the ability to do similar things. More are becoming available all the time. In fact, those in the market for a new smartphone might be interested to learn that the new Sony Xperia XZ1 comes with an integrated application called "3D Creator," which allows users to scan an item or a person in less than 1 minute.
As these technologies evolve, it is important for dental technology professionals to remain in the know, providing the opportunity to practice truly patient-centric dentistry and plug the virtual patient into the workflow. It is a great honor and privilege to bring this to you and elevate and inspire with knowledge.