Temporomandibular joint has been considered one of the most complex joints in human body. Dental articulation hinged upon temporomandibular joint is essential and fundamentally important for dental restoration design and prosthetic/orthodontic occlusion analysis. As digital dentistry rapidly grows, a complete digital work flow requires the use of a digital articulator for occlusion analysis. However, commercial CAD/CAM systems do not provide any method to verify the modeling accuracy of a digital articulator. There is also a lack of detail and generalized mathematical modeling of the digital articulator for simulating the jaw movement.
This paper presents the development of a digital articulator by mathematically modeling a general dental articulator which simulates the relative jaw motion between the maxilla and mandible. As the digital articulator moves, the digital upper teeth move relatively to the digital lower teeth, thus simulating the occlusal path with teeth collision detection function. To verify the accuracy of our modeled digital articulator, an improved optical tracking method is proposed to measure the pose of a mechanical articulator with 6 degrees of freedom and compare that with the digital articulator.
The digital articulator system proposed in this paper achieves the following functions: 1. Digitalize the dental articulator with verified precision. Combined with dental design software, restorations can be designed with more efficiency and accuracy. 2. Provide an improved optical tracking method which can compare the movement error between the mechanical articulator and digital articulator. Thus the accuracy of the digital articulation can be verified. The result shows the error of our system is controlled under sub-millimeter which provides sufficient accuracy for the design of restoration under static and dynamic occlusion conditions.
We develop a general digital articulator which can simulate jaw movement between opposing teeth and an improved optical tracking method to verify the accuracy of the digital articulator. The modeling and accuracy verification of the digital articulator shows that there is a systematic and reliable way to replace traditional mechanical articulator and can close the gap for digital restoration fabrication.

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