Marc Aids in the Improvement of the Quality of Oral Health Care

The University of Tennessee - Marc Aids in the Improvement of the Quality of Oral Health Care According to University Study

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The University of Tennessee and the Federal University of Uberlândia, based in Brazil, have conducted a study on the quality of oral health care with the assistance of Marc's finite element analysis capabilities.

Oral health is important to an individual's well-being and overall health. In dentistry, most oral diseases are neither self-limiting nor self-repairing. Therefore, prompt professional care is fundamental, given that oral diseases follow a downward spiral: incipient diseases requiring minimum dental care, if untreated, progress into diseases that require increasingly more complex and expensive treatments; increases in complexity and cost usually make the treatment even more out of reach for a large proportion of the population. In this context, finite element analysis (FEA) has been applied in various areas in dentistry (1) to improve the understanding of these complex processes and (2) to help to design better procedures.

It is often commented that finite element analysis is a powerful tool for the interpretation of complex biomechanical systems. Yet, all clinicians and dental researchers are acutely aware of the complexity of oral tissues and their interactions, and hence of the limitations of any theoretical model that depends on input from our incomplete knowledge. The reason why FEA is nonetheless considered such a powerful tool is that it does not need perfect input to be already extremely useful. Marc, with its unique contact analysis and subroutine capabilities, helps researchers and clinicians formulate the right research questions, design appropriate experiments, and through the underlying universal physics that form the basis of FEA. It provides an almost instant insight into complex biomechanical relationships (cause and effect) that cannot be easily obtained or communicated with any other method. The expanded insight and understanding of mechanical responses have undeniably been of direct significance for justifying experimental questions and improving clinical treatments.

Finite element analysis not only offers solutions for the engineering problems, but it has been instrumental in the progress in many areas of dentistry. Finite element analysis has improved the understanding of complex processes and has assisted researchers and clinicians in designing better procedures to maintain oral health. Finite element simulation provides unique advantages for dental research, such as its precision and its ability to solve complex biomechanical problems for which other research methods are too cumbersome or even impossible. Finite element simulation allows more comprehensive prediction and analysis of medical processes or treatments because in a process where many variables need to be considered, it allows for manipulation of single parameters, making it possible to isolate and study the influence of each parameter with more precision. Thanks to the highly graphic pre- and post-processing features, finite element analysis has also brought researchers and clinicians closer together. It can be argued that without such visualization, stress and strain development would remain mostly academic. The visual interface has improved the communication and collaboration between clinical and research expertise, and is likely to have had a significant impact on the current state of the art in dentistry.

Dr. Antheunis Versluis of the University of Tennessee, who has been using MSC Software for over 20 years, reiterated the importance of finite element methods, specifically Marc in the field of dentistry."(Bio)mechanics is a substantial element of dentistry because the primary function of the dentition is mechanical (biting and chewing). Yet, there are relatively few dedicated or qualified for biomechanics in dental research, and the area is poorly supported. I am very thankful for the support I have received from Marc and Casey Radigan, which has allowed me to continue using Marc in my research and teaching. In my opinion, finite element techniques are key to future advances in dental biomechanics research and in the coming years I hope to help more faculty and students in the use and interpretation of finite element analysis in their research," he said.

Fig. 1. Radiography of maxillary premolar (A); Lines plotted in the MARC/MENTAT software (B); Manual creation of mesh (C); Final subdivision for improving the mesh quality (D).


Fig. 2. Load application A. Contact analysis using antagonist tooth (Marc/Mentat software);
B. Point load application (Ansys Inc., Houston, USA).