Dental Tribune Canada

Storing ortho models digitally saves space, dollars

By Terry Whitty
November 02, 2014

The concept of digital study models has often been talked about — particularly in orthodontic circles — as a solution to the considerable physical space required to store plaster models. If a model could be scanned in three dimensions to a high degree of accuracy, stored electronically and then reconstituted (should the need arise), then the need for physical storage of models could potentially be eliminated.

While there has been talk of this, little in the way of real solutions has been available. Study-model scanning services exist, but often if you look at the fine print in their terms and conditions, you may not even own the scans of your own models.

A more practical alternative is to be able to scan study models in your own laboratory rather than sending them out to be scanned by a third party.

Digital models have many advantages. They are easy to make, inexpensive, accurate, cost little to store, and transportation is a breeze. You can store more than 800 sets of models on one DVD-R disc. An average 500 Gb hard drive could hold 100,000 sets of models, which is much better than rooms and rooms full of study models.

I have been working with digital models for some time and have examined several systems on the market. I have recently found a great new digital study-model system with a host of “very useable” features, and the best news of all is that it is very affordable.

The Maestro Scanner system consists of a digital 3-D scanner and various software programs, so you can scan dental models, manipulate the data in various ways and then easily share this data so anyone anywhere with the viewing software can visualise the digital models.

The system uses patterns of light and two digital cameras to measure the surface of the model in three dimensions. Projecting a narrow band of light onto a three-dimensional surface produces a line of illumination that appears distorted from other perspectives than that of the projector and can be used for an exact geometric reconstruction of the surface shape. This is the basis of structured light scanning, which in this case uses no lasers, so it’s completely safe for anyone to use. It also has great accuracy and is quite speedy in operation. This type of scanning is used by many dental CAD/CAM manufacturers, so the technology is well proven for our market.

With the Maestro Easy Dental Scan program, you simply put your model into the scanner, click a button or two and you are on your way to a scanned model. Diving deeper into the program uncovers more complex optional features. You can scan crown and bridge models and acquire up to eight dies in one scan. Remember, digital storage isn’t just for orthodontics but can be used for diagnoses, discussion and storage with any dental model.

Once you scan the upper and lower models and do an occlusal scan, the registering of the scanned models into the correct bite relationship is completely automatic. You can also register the models in various relationships, such as centric relation, centric occlusion, protrusive or construction bite.

With Easy Dental Scan you can batch scan. In many systems, immediately after the scan is completed, it is processed, which can take quite a bit of time. With the batch scan, you can quickly scan several models and then complete the processing of the scans at a later time. You simply walk away and the computer does all the work.

With the OrthoStudio program, when a set of models are loaded, all the information from the database accompanies it, so you know exactly what you are looking at. Tools let you add virtual orthodontic bases using various popular angles, including ABO 2013, measuring tooth and arch width, occlusal mapping, multiple views, snapshot, printing and much more.

The latest version of OrthoStudio has the ability to perform complex digital diagnostic setups and create files ready for aligner therapy or orthodontic bracket placement.

OrthoStudio Viewer is an abridged version of OrthoStudio but is still feature rich enough for using digital models for diagnosis on an everyday basis. The viewer includes tools for measuring tooth and arch width, occlusal mapping, multiple views, snapshot, printing and more. Of course it’s very easy to use so people will actually use it. That makes OrthoStudio Viewer a great program to give away to people you want to share your digital files with. For example, a lab that is scanning models for various clients can distribute the free viewer to those clients, who can then use the viewer to view and diagnose directly from the scans.

This article was published in Dental Tribune Canada Edition, Vol. 8, No. 3, May 2014 issue.

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