Orthodontics and 3D technology


Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

orthodontics and 3D technology

A successful early adopter of digital photography and scanners, Dr John Mamutil sees huge orthodontic potential with new 3D technology. By Frank Leggett

When Dr John Mamutil heard about Apple Vision Pro and its 3D possibilities, he was intrigued. Vision Pro is much more than a pair of virtual reality goggles. Apple calls them ‘spatial computers’ and they are basically computers you wear on your face. The system operates by tracking eye movement and responding to hand gestures. It is an interactive digital experience that doesn’t isolate you from the real world. Dr Mamutil was forced to purchase his unit from the US because it wasn’t available in Australia.

Dr Mamutil owns and runs Brace5 Orthodontics in the Sydney suburb of Castle Hill. The main reason he wanted to get his hands on the Vision Pro (VP) was to view iTero scans in the headset—something it was definitely not designed to do. “I explained what I needed to a programmer and he developed a solution in three days,” says Dr Mamutil. “Once I installed the program, I was able to view the very first iTero scan to appear in a VP. I created a YouTube clip where the result can be viewed.” (See: youtu.be/I3yHoV5ARxk)

Future use

Using the app he invented, which he calls sc.ANNE.view after his mother, Dr Mamutil was impressed with the quality and definition of the result. Does it have any real-world applications in the field of orthodontics? Well, not yet.

“In regard to dentistry and orthodontics, VP is a bit of a gimmick at the moment,” he says. “I just wanted to explore what was possible and examine the future potential. Technology moves fast and I’m certain that VP or other types of VR goggles will find many dental applications.”

One possibility is a future where these types of goggles replace computer screens and keyboards. Instead, the screen appears in the room in which you sit and can be placed in any position. The operator can still see what is happening in real life and if someone enters the room, they can interact with that person.

“I could be working on a document and a quick hand gesture will pull a specific scan into my field of view,” says Dr Mamutil. “It would be simple to have an Invisalign scan, patient information, and a surgical plan in front of you. The workflow would be efficient and fast.”

Dr Mamutil also sees a time when it may not be necessary to look in a patient’s mouth during a check-up. “After a full scale and clean, the patient is scanned, the results are transferred to the VP within minutes, and the dentist is looking at a realistic 3D model. The upper and lower teeth can be separated, zoomed in and rotated for full visual access. Cavities and any other problems could be easily identified.”

Getting in early

As dental digital technology has evolved, Dr Mamutil has always been an early adopter. In 1995, he purchased one of the first professional digital cameras available in Australia.

The endgame is to think about what will be happening in five years’ time. You need to trust your instincts and embrace the change. If you think the technology is a good idea then getting in on the ground floor is a great way to stay ahead of the game.

Dr John Mamutil owner, Brace5 Orthodontics

“The camera I purchased cost $6000 and had one megapixel,” he recalls. “As soon as I used it, I knew I could ditch most impressions in our practice. They simply stopped being a diagnostic tool for me. The only time I took an impression was if someone needed a plate or a retainer. I kept full photographic records of all patients and freed up a lot of storage space in my practice.”

In 2011, Invisalign previewed the new iTero scanner to the Australian market. Dr Mamutil immediately knew he was looking at the future of orthodontics. “I purchased the first iTero scanner to land in Australia,” he says. “It was expensive and I wasn’t doing many Invisalign cases. Other dentists told me it was cheaper to keep taking impressions, but I knew this was the best thing for my patients. The scanner was much more accurate and I could completely give up impressions.”

Today, scanner technology is fully embraced and it’s rare to find a practice without a unit. It’s faster, more accurate, and a necessity with Invisalign cases.

A new piece of technology that Dr Mamutil is very excited about is the iTero Lumina scanner. “I was blown away by the quality of the images,” he says. “It’s like putting on a new pair of glasses. Utilising Lumina scans with the capabilities of Vision Pro would be an incredible orthodontic experience. More importantly, I can see this replacing our clinical digital camera.”

Practice management

Dr Mamutil has been developing orthodontic software since 1984. In 1998, he created his own orthodontic practice management software—aptly named Millennium for the Year 2000. He used Millennium in his practice without support or bugs for 12 years.

“Australian orthodontists do not have a comprehensive management system developed purely for the Australian market,” he says. “Everyone is using systems written for the US market. Instead of driving a Rolls Royce we’re riding bullock carts.”

He updated Millennium in 2012 and has just unleashed its latest iteration, Lightning. “It’s still a work in progress but I‘m streamlining all processes by beta testing it in my practice,” says Dr Mamutil. “We‘re incorporating AI and it will be compatible with Vision Pro. Ultimately, I intend to market and sell to Australian orthodontists and dentists.”

Being an early adopter of digital technology is speculative and you need to go in with your eyes open. Often there’s no-one to ask for advice and there can be resistance from colleagues and patients. When that technology originates from huge companies like Invisalign or Apple, however, you can have more confidence.

“The endgame is to think about what will be happening in five years’ time,” says Dr Mamutil. “You need to trust your instincts and embrace the change. If you think the technology is a good idea then getting in on the ground floor is a great way to stay ahead of the game.” 

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