Dental patients may soon be able to “try on” a new smile thanks to a recently unveiled device that uses augmented reality to help patients visualize how different dental procedures could change the look of their teeth.
The device, called the Kapanu Augmented Reality Engine, is a product of the Swiss company Kapanu. The developers hope to make smile restorations easier for dentists and patients alike.
“Many patients looking for smile restoration have a hard time visualizing what they would look like with veneers, implants or other restorations,” Dr. Stefania Caracioni, D.D.S., L.V.I.F., said.
Caracioni is a dentist in Topeka, Kansas, who practices cosmetic dentistry.
Improving on Current Methods
“Current tools used to show patients what they could look like with potential cosmetic options, like wax or plastic mockups, are awkward and outdated. They may also look unnatural, which makes the patient second guess if they’re having the right procedure,” she said.
These current methods can also result in a lot of back and forth between the patient, dentist and dental laboratory as they work to find the right restoration for the patient.
“This back-and-forth process can cause delays in treatment,” Caracioni said.
Kapanu’s technology works by taking a 3D scan of the patient’s mouth and matching it to preloaded scans of teeth designed to address the patient’s particular smile issue. Once paired, the device then inserts that smile into the user’s live image on the screen.
The result is essentially a virtual mirror of the patient’s image, but with the new smile. On the device’s screen, the patient and dentist can review the image and make adjustments in real time to create the smile of the patient’s dreams.
Users can change the position and color of the teeth and even virtually replace missing teeth. This virtual mirror moves along with the patient, so they can see what their new smile would look like at different angles and profiles.
Once the patient is satisfied with their virtual look, the final image is sent off to a lab to create the crowns, implants, veneers or other restorations needed to complete the smile makeover.
Kapanu was unveiled at the International Dental Show in Cologne, Germany, earlier this year.
Study Reveals Many Don’t Like Their Smiles
Almost 30 percent of people do not like their smile and avoid showing their teeth in pictures, according to a 2015 study by Bupa, an international health care group.
The Bupa study included 2,000 participants and found that 81 percent of people think their teeth look unattractive in photographs. Forty-two percent of participants said their smile would be the first thing they would change about themselves.
“Many people are self-conscious about their smile, which means they shy away from pictures and cover their mouth when they talk or laugh,” Caracioni said.
Twenty percent of American adults say they avoid relationships because of their smiles, according to a study sponsored by Invisalign®, the manufacturer of the nearly invisible device designed to straighten teeth.
The Invisalign study also found that 92 percent of people reported that crooked teeth or dingy smiles were a turn-off when seeking a potential mate.
Recommendations for Restoration
Caracioni recommends patients who are living with a smile they don’t like to discuss their options for treatment with their dentist.
“Even whitening treatments can dramatically change a smile’s appearance,” Caracioni said.
Before beginning any smile restoration work, Caracioni evaluates her patients to ensure they are healthy enough for restoration treatments, which may require more in-depth procedures like extractions or implants.
“Many times patients have underlying conditions of tooth decay or gum disease that negatively affect the appearance of the smile. These conditions must be treated before any restoration work can begin,” Caracioni said.
New Atlas. Augmented reality lets dental patients try on a million dollar smile. New Atlas. 6 September 2017.
Dentistry Today. Study Shows Many People Hate Smiling. Dentistry Today. 2 June 2015.