One day, joke shops might be the only place you find false teeth. Increasingly removable dentures are being replaced with permanent dental implants, which are stronger, function more like real teeth and look better. Dental implants begin with a titanium ‘root’ which is screwed directly into the jawbone. Aligning this root correctly is essential – getting it wrong can mean an uncomfortable, ill-fitting implant or even permanent nerve damage. To minimise problems the surgeon uses a virtual drilling guide, generated through computer modelling, imprints, CT scans and x-rays of the patient’s mouth. However, this process is not foolproof and errors can accumulate. An optical scanning method has shown that the final models can be as much as 0.5mm smaller (blue) or larger (yellow/red) than the original imprint (green). Now that the errors can be quantified, the process can be improved, and patients can look forward to better implants in the future.
Written by Sarah McLusky
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