Digital smile A better way to model teeth and gums

Toothbrushes and a set of teeth in a dental office in Zurich


A new algorithm created by researchers in Switzerland and Germany uses simple images to create lifelike digital models of teeth and gums – with potential both for the dentist’s chair and the big screen.

Despite sophisticated advances in image-based reconstruction of the human face, modelling teeth is still a challenge. Often, it still requires tedious, invasive methods like plaster casts or cumbersome dental scanners.

But the team of researchers – from the Swiss federal technology institute ETH Zurich, Max-Planck Institute in Saarbrücken, Germany, and The Walt Disney Company research lab in Zurich – managed to come up with an inexpensive, non-invasive solution. They developed an algorithm to reconstruct an entire “person-specific” row of teeth and gums based on photographs, and even short videos captured with a mobile phone.


“We believe that our versatile and easy-to-use approach will be useful in medical dentistry,” the researchers wrote, adding that the technology could also be used by the entertainment industry, which already uses similar multi-camera setups to capture and recreate images of the human face.

The researchers presented their new software at Asia’s largest annual eventexternal link in computer graphics and interactive techniques, which was held this past December in Macao, China.