Digitized and computerized recordkeeping in dentistry (Orthodontics) : A Technologically Advanced Alternative to the Analysis and Storage of Study Models
The research is aimed at investigating and finding alternatives to the physical necessity of producing and storing plaster casts or stone models of the tissues of the mouth. The quest for time and space is universal and the successful management of both results in stress free, financially stable and uncluttered work circumstances. Study models do playa very important role in diagnostics and treatment planning as well as communicating final results in Dentistry, especially in Orthodontic practice. Conventional study models are bulky, fragile, and expensive diagnostic tools produced from impressions taken of the patient's mouth and cast in plaster or stone. The storage of these records creates major space problems, and recalling or retrieving models at some later stage also causes logistical problems. Ideally, the tissues of the mouth could be scanned and from this a 3-D image produced on screen, which could later be milled (machining process of reproducing, explained in Appendix B) if necessary. Three dimensionally accurate, visually pleasing, reproducible, measurable and retrievable records, would be the solution. Computerizing dental records has already revolutionized the industry in the fields of Radiology and written patient data. This information is available at the click of a mouse, and integrated diagnostic tools can be displayed on screen. A thorough investigation of all methods of capturing dental data and 3D images from previously researched and publicized studies was conducted before attempting the latest technology. The final project involved: 1. requesting an introductory and explanatory demonstration on the scanning possibilities in South Africa 2. organizing and attending a demonstration of the laser and contact scanner on study models and impressions. 3. undergoing training in the use of a contact scanner. Computerizing of these results and comparing data derived from analyzing both study models and impressions, manually and digitally. 4. researching and collecting of data with engineering professionals, to establish the validity and viability of this method ( aiming to use uncomplicated, widely accepted and thoroughly applicable basic criteria in all experiments.) 5. evaluation of data statistically by a statistician. Discussion: Digitizing and computerizing of images derived from scanning the models or impressions offers the most attractive alternative for record keeping. Laser scanning disappointed in general due to the relative unavailability in South Africa, the expensive nature of the service elsewhere and limiting factors due to the sensitivity of the laser beam. It is the most promising alternative in future research, because of improved accuracy, higher speed of scanning, uniformity and reproducibility. Contact scanning proved to be available, reliable and adjustable. In most applications, the best results in terms of accuracy and quality of surface finish are obtained using contact scanning. The disadvantage of this method is the time factor and therefore it becomes expensive and economically not viable. The direct scanning of impressions, albeit with laser or contact scanning, remains a scientific and clinical viable option. Conclusion: Digital imaging is still a young technology and many aspects are not yet completely explored. It is a promising technology and its significance is increasing because it opens the door to diagnostic information. Another important development is that the software for digital imaging will become more integrated with other computerized dental applications in the dental office, enabling patient data between different and remote practices to be exchanged more easily. Further progress is not limited by a lack of available image processing tools but rather by our restricted understanding of the various components of diagnostic imaging in dentistry. A Bioengineering exhibition mounted by the University of Munich during a December 2000 conference, displayed a specially adapted CT Scanner that could scan information directly from the mouth. This leads to more possibilities of deriving images without impressions or study casts.