Fiducial-based fusion of 3D dental models with magnetic resonance imaging

  • Amir H. Abdi
  • Alan G. Hannam
  • Sidney Fels
Original Article



Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is widely used in study of maxillofacial structures. While MRI is the modality of choice for soft tissues, it fails to capture hard tissues such as bone and teeth. Virtual dental models, acquired by optical 3D scanners, are becoming more accessible for dental practice and are starting to replace the conventional dental impressions. The goal of this research is to fuse the high-resolution 3D dental models with MRI to enhance the value of imaging for applications where detailed analysis of maxillofacial structures are needed such as patient examination, surgical planning, and modeling.


A subject-specific dental attachment was digitally designed and 3D printed based on the subject’s face width and dental anatomy. The attachment contained 19 semi-ellipsoidal concavities in predetermined positions where oil-based ellipsoidal fiducial markers were later placed. The MRI was acquired while the subject bit on the dental attachment. The spatial position of the center of mass of each fiducial in the resultant MR Image was calculated by averaging its voxels’ spatial coordinates. The rigid transformation to fuse dental models to MRI was calculated based on the least squares mapping of corresponding fiducials and solved via singular-value decomposition.


The target registration error (TRE) of the proposed fusion process, calculated in a leave-one-fiducial-out fashion, was estimated at 0.49 mm. The results suggest that 6–9 fiducials suffice to achieve a TRE of equal to half the MRI voxel size.


Ellipsoidal oil-based fiducials produce distinguishable intensities in MRI and can be used as registration fiducials. The achieved accuracy of the proposed approach is sufficient to leverage the merged 3D dental models with the MRI data for a finer analysis of the maxillofacial structures where complete geometry models are needed.


3D dental model Magnetic resonance imaging Oil-based fiducial Multi-modal fusion Fiducial-based registration Vitamin capsule 



We would like to thank Dr. David Tobias for his clinical assistance. This research was undertaken, in part, thanks to the funding from the Vanier Scholar award of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) (Grant No. 201511CGV-360245-271565) to Amir H. Abdi.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© CARS 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Electrical and Computer Engineering DepartmentUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of Oral Health Sciences, Faculty of DentistryUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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