Ahlstrom award recipient’s project focus on 3D printing

Dr. Suvendra Vijayan envisions a future where dentists can use 3D printing to create accurate models of patients’ anatomy, helping plan any needed surgical interventions and assist in teaching patients and students. One day, it could even potentially create accurate and personalized prostheses for patients, the new dentist said.

Dr. Vijayan

For his innovative research on the subject, Dr. Vijayan is the 2018 Robert H. Ahlstrom New Investigator Award, which highlights the role dental informatics standards play in dentistry, according to ADA News.

Dr. Vijayan, an assistant professor in oral and maxillofacial radiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine who recently obtained a master’s degree in oral and maxillofacial radiology from the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics, won the award for his project titled Reliability of 3D Printed Mandibles Constructed From CBCT Volumes of Different Voxel Sizes.

The research “exemplified exactly the award criteria of a very well designed and executed paper that incorporated standards-based informatics research,” said Dr. Greg Zeller, chair of the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics and a member of the award selection committee. “The goal of this award is to bring in a new generation of professionals to the important work of standards development and the ADA Council on Dental Practice agreed that Dr. Vijayan’s paper was the best example of this.”

For the project, Dr. Vijayan, use a 3D printer to create 30 different virtual models of 10 mandibles, using CBCT DICOM images. The virtualization was done using a fixed standardized protocol and he measured them using 24 linear cephalometric measurements. Dr. Vijayan found no difference in reliability across models made from different voxel sizes, thus concluding that the study “successfully showed that the reliability of measurements made on 3D printed models of dry skull mandibles … are valid, reproducible and reliable and can be used for diagnostic and clinical purposes.”

“With the progress in 3D printing, it is a matter of time before it becomes mainstream,” Dr. Vijayan told the ADA News. “The major idea behind my research was to prove that cone beam CT images can be used to accurately print human anatomy structures.”

As the Ahlstrom award recipient, Dr. Vijayan receives $1,000, and airfare and hotel accommodations to present his research at the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics meeting in Honolulu that directly precedes ADA 2018 – America’s Dental Meeting.

Dr. Vijayan said he plans to continue his research in 3D printing and collaborate with different specialties.

“I want to create standardized, easy workflows in 3D printing for dentists and specialists to use,” he said.

In addition to his dental degree and master’s degree in oral science, Dr. Vijayan has a master’s degree in public health from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

“I was always interested in biology and doing research. The fact that I could transform patients’ lives in a very short period of time — even a single visit by reducing their pain — drew me towards dentistry,” he said.

Upon hearing he was receiving the Ahlstrom award, Dr. Vijayan said he was “extremely happy.”

“I know the high standards required to win the award and, for me, winning the award has validated the research path I had chosen,” he said.

The Ahlstrom award is named after the first chairman of the ADA Standards Committee on Dental Informatics. Dr. Ahlstrom led the group’s efforts to develop the first standards for the dental electronic health record, digital dental radiology interoperability and privacy of digital dental patient data, among others. For more information, visit ADA.org/dentalstandards.

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