The advantages of three-dimensional (3-D) imaging technology and solid modeling make it possible to visualize the morphological information. However, lacking in this 'digital patient' is the motion and mechanical properties observed inthe living patient. Functional diagnostic techniques such as electromyography and motion analysis could complement the morphological characteristics to be applied in orthodontics. In this review, new computer-assisted analyzing methods are introduced which include visualization of: 1) the 3-D structure and bone density distribution; 2) masticatory-generated forces by using automated finite element modeling (FEM); and 3) the 3-D jaw movement and its motion analysis. In each study, the data from X-ray computed tomography scanning, electromyograms, biting pressure, and digital jaw movement analysis (six axes) are used for calculation. By using these applications, growing changes in bone mineral density distribution of the mandibular cortical bone have been clarified, automated finite element modeling has indicated stress distribution in the craniofacial skeleton, and patient-specific 3-D images of the mandible have been depicted as a motion picture.These studies were completed in 124 living subjects (75 females, 49 males) between 8 and 33 years of age. From these results, malfunctions during mastication were evaluated clearly with the individual patient craniofacial structures and itscharacteristics. These computerbased visualization techniques can be used to derive much clinically useful information, and to improve the combined evaluation of both static characteristics and dynamic function.
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