Silicone based impression-taking of prepared teeth is well-established but potentially less reliable, error-prone and inefficient for computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) of dental prosthetics. Intraoral optical scanners have been introduced to increase efficiency of CAM but no breakthrough occurred so far. An accurate impression of the tooth preparation is highly important for the final fit of the prosthesis. Therefore, retraction cords or electro-surgery are commonly used to invasively uncover subgingival margins prior to the impression. These methods may lead to inflammation or permanent damage of the gum. In addition, bleeding from inflamed gingiva, saliva, air bubbles or other particles can decrease the accuracy outcome of both the conventional and optical impression. Digitizing a gingiva-covered margin is an infeasible task due to the fact that optical waves can hardly penetrate gingival tissue.
High frequency ultrasound (HFUS) has been recently introduced by out group as an alternative to optical scanning. HFUS is less sensitive against oral fluids and in principal able to penetrate gingiva non-invasively. Although HFUS-systems have been used in other medical fields, none of them suits the challenging requirements and high accuracy demands for dental impressioning. Hence, our goals are to develop a new ultrasonic technology, which is able to scan supra- and subgingival dental hard- as well as soft-tissue structures and to integrate it into the CAD/CAM-process for dental restorations. Whereas in case of optical digitization the dentist usually has to wait until bleeding and swelling subside, an HFUS-based impression can be performed within the same session. Thereby ultrasound-based scanning will lead to a more cost-efficient, time-saving and pain-free process in daily dental practice. As part of the BMWi project IDentUS and the cooperation with the RWTH spin-Off whitesonic GmbH, the preliminary work of the project IDA for the development of an ultrasound-based scanning system (Patent WO2007137826) will be continued and the applicability of the new technology will be demonstrated.
In addition to the development of the prototype, the marketing of the innovative ultrasound technology has been prepared as part of the BMWi project IDentUS. A team of four engineers and three mentors from medicine, technology and business concepted a marketing and sales strategy as well as the company financing. The final goal of the first EXIST funding phase was the elaboration of a business plan and the founding of the company. The spin-off whitesonic GmbH, founded in the Chair of Medical Engineering at RWTH Aachen University, continues the development and marketing of the innovative ultrasound technology for dentists.
The project IDentUS is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy as part of the EXIST research transfer.
You can find more information here (German).