The American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID) reported that 3 million patients have dental implants and that number is growing by 500,000 each year.
In 2006, the Implants performed by US dentists reached 5,505,720. Moreover, the AAID stated that the estimated US and European market for dental implants is expected to reach $4.2 billion by 2022. 
A successful dental implant surgery needs good patient assessment and a precise treatment plan.
The evolution of Digital Dentistry concepts was an expected result for the merging between continuous research and development in the fields of dental implants, medical imaging, 3D-Printing and other new technologies.
Digital dentistry refers to the application of the state-of-the-art technologies in dentistry. CAD/CAM, caries detection, TMJ analysis and diagnosis are just a few examples for using modern technology in dentistry.
One of the most important applications is the computer-aided implant dentistry. Design and fabrication of surgical guides used in treatment planning and simulation were completely done through computers.
Soon, the accuracy of computer-guided dental implants was clear for all scientists working in the dental implant research field.
Computer-guided dental implants concepts refer to the design and fabrication of what is known as “surgical guide” or “surgical template”. This surgical guide helps in affording less invasive procedures and predictable outcomes through ensuring a precise positioning and angulations of the dental implant. The surgical guide acts as a guide for the drilling system to ensure the safety of vital structures (like the inferior alveolar nerve in the mandible and the floor of the maxillary sinus in the maxilla).
Surgical guides are made using Stereolithographic technology. Different coordinates are determined and recorded in the Stereolithographic (STL) file (like the depth and diameter) taking into consideration the proximity to vital structures.
A proper treatment plan depends on the precision of the measurements of the implant of choice including the length, diameter, labio-lingual and mesiodistal dimensions. In addition, other data may also be important such as the shape of the apex, types of threads, location of grooves, types of flanges, the presence of collar, and type of surface treatment.
Dental Implants Planning Software
Many software houses and dental implant manufacturers realized the urgent need for a software program to handle the whole process (STL file design, dental implants library, treatment plan design, and printing the surgical guide). Soon, a fierce market competition started and millions of dollars were waiting for the winner.
Data availability and building a strong, coherent, comprehensive and well-curated implant library including all the implants from all brands is the one of the most important keys for leading the market in this competition.
Making the dental implant choice at the fingertips of the operator through a mouse click or a drag-and-drop action is one of the keys that could lead to the success or failure of a dental planning solution.
Dental Implants Data And Big Data 3V’s
By definition, we can consider and treat dental implants datasets like big data.
The three V’s which define big data (Volume, Velocity and Variety) are clearly presented in the case of dental implants datasets. This can be explained as follows:
Volume: One manufacturer catalogue can include tens of columns and thousands of rows. Some dental planning applications include a dental implant library that contains up to 10,000 implants from more than 100 brands, where every implant has its own set of measurements.
Velocity: Everyday, there are new brands and new products. The growth can be considered exponential taking into consideration data storage size and the time factor. Data updates are becoming a real-time process.
Variety: Some applications save the data as simple excel sheets, CSV format or simple MS-Access database. Data can exist in more than one form. Sometimes, the data may contain STL fi§les for the dental implants.
Building A Dental Implant Library
This is one of the biggest challenges that could face any software house thinking of adopting such a development project.
The team dedicated to this mission will face different constraints in every step. Data acquisition will not be an easy task. Some dental implants manufacturers publish their catalogues online in different formats and some prefer not to publish the data files online, but can provide them upon request.
Although it seems logical that it is the benefit of any manufacturer to have their own products included in the library of any dental planning software, some manufacturers prefer not to provide their data except to specific software houses. The restriction becomes clearer when it comes to the STL files which describe the design of the implants.
Unfortunately, it is not also easy for any software house to extract the data and STL files needed from any other software (for competitors) because they are always encrypted.
Another big challenge is the diversity and non-coherence of data. Every manufacturer prefers a specific format to save the data. Even the heading titles will be different. Some data may be available in different languages (English, Dutch, French or others).
All the data have to be imported into a single coherent sheet or table where it appears to the end user as a comprehensive library where the operator can drag-and-drop any implant from this library and see if it matches the present case on the radiograph or not. This will ensure the best implant choice for the case.
The Benefits Of Dental Implants Data Curation
Building a dental implant library that is comprehensive, accurate, coherent and secured is one of the keys for market-leading dental planning software.
Less invasive and precise surgical procedure mandate the availability of different dental implants to choose from. The operator can then choose the implant that ensures the safety of the vital structures and a precise surgical procedure.
The data can also work both ways!!
This means that the dental implants data can help the operator to choose the best implant for the surgery and also it can help the dentist to identify the type of the implant and retrieve all the data related to it by knowing only part of the data.
Sometimes the patient drop-in the clinic, complaining about an implant which was made many years ago. So, for example by knowing the diameter, length from the radiograph, the dentist can determine the brand and model of the implant and can retrieve the rest of the data.
The presence of well curated dental implants datasets can save time and increase the safety of the surgical process, patient comfort and operator’s confidence. Moreover, it decreases the invasiveness of the procedure.
References: American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID). Dental Implants Facts and Figures [Internet]. [cited 2016 May 1]. Available from: http://www.aaid.com/about/press_room/dental_implants_faq.html