Virtual Dental Patient (VDP)
The Virtual Dental Patient is a special software program that was developed by Dr. Ralph DeLong and supported by a NIDCR grant. The Virtual Dental Patient is an interactive 3D computer rendition of a dental patient that accurately reproduces the surface anatomy of hard and soft dental tissues, tooth contacts, and jaw motion while the teeth are in contact. Because of its numerical nature, the VDP is easily stored, enabling comparisons of sequential VDPs. Quantification of the differences between sequential VDPs provides valuable information for diagnosis, prognosis and outcome assessment of the patient's dental health. The VDP represents a paradigm shift in clinical measurement for dentistry.
The Virtual Dental Patient can be used to go beyond the traditional dental examination. The VDP provides visibility, numerical measurement (including volume and depth changes), and comparison with a previous time period. The VDP provides an environment of near photographic quality, with hard and soft tissue textural details and anatomical relations preserved under static or dynamic conditions. Finally, the VDP enables a dentist to detect subclinical change. Changes below the threshold of chairside observation are now made visible; therefore, adverse incipient dental disease can be detected before it becomes a clinical problem.
Finite Element Analysis
Biomechanical performance is determined by strains and stresses. The distribution and magnitude of these strains and stresses depend on a combination of factors: loading and attachment, material and tissue properties, geometrical and anatomical features, and history. The finite element technique is used to integrate the interaction between these factors so that stress and strain patterns can be analyzed for complex clinical processes. Examples of processes studied are: residual stress development during polymerization of restorative composites or during endodontic treatment, crack propagation during fracture or fatigue, and occlusal wear loss during masticatory function.