For those whose teeth aren't their proudest feature, there are ways dentists can improve your smile. To help patients try before they buy, technicians can prepare wearable casts and molds that fill in some of the gaps, but now researchers in Switzerland have developed a type of "virtual mirror" that promises a cheaper way of doing things. By using augmented reality software, patients can see the results of their upcoming surgery in real time.

The new software was developed by Kapanu, a startup spun out out of ETH Zurich, and has been dubbed the Kapanu Augmented Reality Engine. The process begins with a 3D scan of the patient's oral cavity. The software then taps into a database full of 3D models of "naturally attractive" teeth and displays different options for a new smile.

This process matches the desired set of teeth with the patient's current ones, laying a virtual model over the top of a live video with the pearly whites superimposed. This enables the patient to see what their new smile would look like, and even twist and turn their head to catch it at different angles.

And the beauty of this approach, compared to preparing a cast, is the patient can try on different smiles with just a few clicks of a mouse, with the software able to alter things like the length, width and shade of the teeth. Once the patient has settled on a new smile, the data is fed into 3D modeling software and onto a machine that then produces the replacement teeth.

Kapanu actually showed off the software at the International Dental Show in Germany earlier this year, where professionals were able to take it for a spin. The developers say that the feedback was "overwhelming" and that a number showed interest in buying its software. It is now continuing to fine-tune the software for the market.

The video below provides a look at how the Kapanu Augmented Reality Engine works.

Source: ETH Zurich