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Investigation of the palatal soft tissue volume: a 3D virtual analysis for digital workflows and presurgical planning

BMC Oral Health. 2022 Aug 23;22(1):361. doi: 10.1186/s12903-022-02391-z.


BACKGROUND: In mucogingival and implant surgery, an autologous soft tissue graft from the palate is the gold standard for reconstructing missing keratinised soft tissue and volume. Previously, presurgical measurements of the graft harvesting site were described with two-dimensional (2D) linear measurements. The present observational clinical study aimed to evaluate a three-dimensional (3D) measurement method for determining the present palatal soft tissue volume for each patient individually.

METHODS: Pre-existing cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scans of 20 patients were converted into 3D Standard Tessellation Language models of the bone surface. Intraoral impressions of the maxilla were taken and digitised to visualise the gingival surface. The resulting virtual models of bone (reference value) and gingival (actual value) surfaces were merged, with tooth surfaces used for registration. The region between the central incisors and the hard palate was subdivided into 5 regions of interest (ROIs). The distance between palatal bone and gingival surface was analysed both volumetrically and linearly, and the results were statistically evaluated for the ROIs.

RESULTS: The average gingival surface area on the palate was 19.1 cm2, and the mean volume was 58.2 cm3 (± 16.89). Among the ROIs, the mean linear value was highest in the most distal region, from the second molar to the hard palate (4.0 ± 1.09 mm) and lowest in the canine region (1.9 ± 0.63 mm). For mean distance, significant differences were found for the anterior palate and the most posterior palate in comparison with all other ROIs (p < 0.01). The volume measurements also declined significantly and steadily between the posterior (1.9 ± 1.0 cm3) and anterior palates (0.4 ± 0.2 cm3).

CONCLUSIONS: By merging digital data, palatal soft tissue could be quantified virtually. The results were reliable and comparable to previous findings with linear measurement methods. This 3D soft tissue volume analysis method fully exploited the diagnostic potential of data that are frequently collected for presurgical planning in oral surgery (i.e., CBCT + surface scans). This evaluation method might be useful for volumetric and linear measurements in other applications in anatomy and for determining palatal soft tissue dimensions in the planning stage before surgical interventions.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: This observational clinical trial was retrospectively registered in the German Clinical Trials Register, reference number: DRKS00023918.

PMID:35999531 | DOI:10.1186/s12903-022-02391-z

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