Creating the Perfect CGI Smile – New Research on Digital Tooth Reconstruction

Creating the perfect CGI smileRecent advances in digital technology have had huge implications in the world of medical dentistry. Enhanced video mapping and scanning techniques offer a range of applications, from scanning damaged teeth to analyze the spread of infection to reconstructing lost teeth and creating digital models for dentures and false teeth.

Creating accurate digital models of teeth has also been a subject of interest for technology and media companies trying to accurately recreate human facial features. Creating lifelike human figures using CGI has long been a challenge in producing lifelike characters for films and video games, and also in the medical profession when utilizing virtual patients. The challenge in creating accurate models of teeth is that a large proportion of the mouth is hidden from sight, requiring cameras and scanning equipment to be placed inside the patient’s mouth. Previous work on producing digital smiles has relied either on creating manual molds of the teeth, which is a cumbersome and invasive process, or on equally invasive in-mouth scanners, which are highly expensive and not readily available.

To make digital mapping of teeth more easily accessible, both for dentistry and the arts, new research has focused on creating programs that can analyze facial structure externally and predict what the internal mouth and tooth structure will look like. This incredible new technology, pioneered by Disney Research, allows accurate digital reconstructions of teeth to be made using nothing more than a short video or set of photographs of the individual’s mouth. This remarkable new technology has massive implications for creating customized dentures without the need to take molds of the patient’s mouth.

How It Works

This new method of generating models of tooth structure requires only a few photographs of the patient’s face or even a short video made using a phone. The visible teeth are analyzed and compared to an extensive database of known tooth shapes compiled from high quality dental scans. The remaining teeth are then generated using this bank of past data, creating tooth reconstructions accurately matched to the patient’s teeth in the photograph. This allows a highly accurate reconstruction of the person’s teeth to be created in a non-invasive manner that requires a far smaller investment of time and money than traditional in-mouth scanners.

This breakthrough technology even analyses the shape of tooth roots and predicts their position and exact shape using advances prediction models based on existing databases. Not only that, but it can recreate 3D models of the gums and match teeth and gums for color, giving a realistic impression of the entire mouth. While the recreation is not 100% accurate as it is limited by the extent of the database of previous dental scans, the error rates were overall very low and as the technology develops, these errors will become even lesser.

From CGI to Reality

The original goal of this research was in creating accurate reconstructions of teeth for CGI faces. As the teeth play a vital role in the structure and expression of a face, this technological advancement will make realistic human facial expressions much easier to achieve. But the implications of this ground-breaking study extend far beyond simply making the next Disney princess have nicer looking teeth!

Dentures and false teeth are currently made using plaster cast imprints to create a mold of the patient’s mouth. This is then digitally reconstructed using laser scanners. In-mouth scanners are an option that remove the uncomfortable molding process but these are extremely expensive and outside the availability of most dental Winnipeg practices.

This new advancement makes the process of getting an accurate model of a patient’s mouth much easier. The need to painstakingly map each tooth from inside the mouth is removed and an accurate reconstruction can be generated from just a simple photo of the face. Likewise plaster cast molds become redundant as the full map of visible and hidden teeth can be predicted to high levels of accuracy in this straightforward and non-invasive process.

Cutting out the need for expensive and invasive techniques will make the creation of dentures a much more readily available and affordable process. Partial dentures can be generated using information about the patient’s remaining teeth and even full sets can be generated using prior photographs of the patient when they had a full smile.

This research marks an exciting first step into making dentures and tooth reconstruction a far more intuitive and easy to perform process. Who would’ve thought that such valuable dental insight would come from research by Disney?