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Is Disney the future of digital dentistry?

Imagine a world where scanning wands are a relic of the past. Imagine a world where you don’t need to take X-rays. Imagine a world where your patient could email you pictures from which you could create a 3D model of their entire mouth. We’re not there yet—and maybe we never will be—but Disney wants to get us as close as possible.

As Engadget reports, Disney Research has partnered with ETH Zurich to take digital dentistry to a whole new level. It works this way: A few camera angles are input into the system and used to create a full 3D model of the patient’s teeth and gums. The technology, unlike most traditional 3D model scanners, requires only a few external images to create a model. It even works with incomplete pictures of the teeth! The technology is sophisticated enough to guess what the partially hidden teeth will look like and build the model from there. Even a low-resolution video from an iPhone is enough to create the model.

Perhaps the most promising part of this technology is how comfortable it makes the person being photographed. There is nothing invasive about the scanning. They don’t have to open their mouth in any weird way or keep it open for an uncomfortable amount of time. They don’t even have to fully open their mouth! A smirk is good enough for a full 3D model.

Technology in action: How embracing digital dentistry opens up possibilities

The scanning system is based heavily on advances in the dental field. The team looked at high-quality dental scans and created an algorithm to make a 3D model based on inferences learned from those scans. The technology can therefore make assumptions about teeth hidden in a picture or video, and accurately capture and model irregular teeth.

However, the system’s creators admit that it isn’t able to fully or accurately depict every tooth, so don’t go looking to add it to your practice today. It provides a best guess, but also lets you know when it might not be guessing correctly so you can adjust the model accordingly.

E-BOOK: How digital dentistry drastically changes the patient experienceDownload now!

Sadly, this technology isn’t being marketed to dentists. Instead, the people at Disney are looking more at the entertainment aspects of the technology, likely for use in video games or movies. So while we may not have a perfect system for completely hands-off scanning with a smartphone any time soon, we may start getting incredibly life-like digital faces.

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