You may have come across dental aligners before or have heard about Invisalign Clapham; they were one of the first companies to provide aligners through dental clinics. You may even understand the basics of how aligners work. What is effective about how this aligner brand designs, produces and distributes aligners is the use of ClinCheck, software that acts as a bridge between their manufacturing facilities and a local clinic, giving real-time information to clinicians and patients.
ClinCheck proprietary software is a set of learning algorithms built on top of a highly accurate model of the human mouth. This allows for the full orthodontic treatment process to be carried out in a simulation.
But for this to be useful to a particular patient the model must be calibrated to their needs. There are two necessary inputs; one is an extremely accurate model of the starting state of the patient’s mouth and the other is an idealised final position of the patient’s teeth. This is created by a trained orthodontist who looks at the model of the patient’s mouth and rearranges the teeth into their preferred positions, both aesthetically pleasing and well meshing, giving an even, well-functioning bite.
ClinCheck then produces the movement pathways that the teeth have to go through to get from their starting to final positions. This accounts for things like teeth colliding into each other, the structure of tendons and roots beneath the gum line, and how the top and bottom sets of teeth will interact. Once the tooth paths have been deduced, the software predicts how much force and from which angles it needs to be applied to the tooth surfaces, to move them in the appropriate way. This is very time-dependent; at some points in treatment the tooth may need to be pushed on the front and in a few weeks’ time, it may require the force to be applied from the left side in order to get it into its optimum location.
The final step is to crunch the numbers and output the geometry required for this set of aligners to be able to apply the minimum effective quantity of force required to resolve the orthodontic misalignment. This computer aided way of producing dental aligners allows the extreme individuality that is required for clear aligner treatment to be effective whilst reducing the workload and therefore costs. This allows aligners to economically compete with traditional metal braces.
3D oral scanning
The best way to collect accurate measurements of the location of a patient’s teeth is through 3D oral scanning. This has become much more convenient with hand-held scanners.
Back in the 90s when 3D scanning was in its infancy, a 3D studio was required to produce models that would be accurate enough for use by ClinCheck. This meant dentists had to take moulds of their patients’ teeth; these would be used to produce plaster replicas and the replicas would be scanned slowly over many hours in a studio.
The whole process now can be done in minutes, non-invasively and without any messy dental moulds.