13 Oct, 2016
Dentist and Stanford research fellow fights cavities and gum disease worldwide with Autodesk Fusion 360
Watch this short video, in which Luis Cordova discusses his 3D-printed add-on device for a smartphone. The purpose of this device? To provide easy access for any dentist in the world with a smartphone to illuminate the oral cavity, which is a central requirement for high quality dental pictures.
A Dentist on a mission
Luis Cordova is a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University. Originally from Chile, Cordova is a professional dentist with passion for improving oral health around the world.
While nearly 100 percent of the global population suffers from dental cavities, the World Health Organization estimates that severe gum disease afflicts 15 to 20 percent of middle-aged (35-44 years) adults worldwide. Additionally, about 30 percent of people aged 65-74 globally have no natural teeth.
These oral health diseases occur at a higher rate in developing nations where access to dental care may only be available at hospitals, and the diseases can lead to more complex health issues including oral and throat cancer or diabetes.
Cordova says that the reasons for poor oral health in developing nations include a variety of factors, from a lack of dental education to a lack of access to dental providers, and transportation issues for rural, elderly or disabled populations.
“I know these issues very well and experienced them firsthand practicing in Latin America, and I realized while living abroad that similar issues exist from a dental educational perspective” said Cordova, who worked 14 years in Chilean public and private oral surgery practices and conducted research for five years in France before joining the Stanford team with Sami Ramly, a software engineer from Stanford’s MS&E department.
“Beside the health impacts, oral health diseases affect quality of life, employability and productivity. They also represent a high economic burden for health systems,” said Cordova, who graduated from the University of Chile in Santiago. “We believe that creating an easy, cheap and fast link between people and dental care providers will improve their oral health self-care and education, and potentially, the way that dental care is provided.”
To help improve global access to dentists, Cordova and his research team used Autodesk Fusion 360 to design the world’s first prototype of a 3D-printed add-on device for a smartphone camera. The device is intended to take professional quality dental/intra-oral pictures that can then be wirelessly distributed to dental care providers around the world.
The device will feature LED ring lights around the smartphone camera in order to provide adequate luminosity inside the oral cavity, which is a central requirement for high quality dental pictures.
Aside from providing imagery, Cordova explained that the device could also serve as a triage method in overloaded healthcare systems, establishing priority for and contributing to solving the waiting lists for dental care—an enormous socio-economic problem in some countries.
When Cordova and his team set out to develop the 3D-printed add-on device for a smartphone camera, they turned to Autodesk Fusion 360 to make it happen. Specifically, the team chose to leverage mobile technology, which has been used successfully in similar approaches to focus on the early diagnosis of skin and retina disease, as a platform to help decrease the frequency of cavities and gum diseases.
Today dental/oral pictures are handled by dentists to make clinical decisions, complement dental records or for dental education purposes, but they are always only used by dentists. However, patients could also benefit from this valuable information. The Stanford team’s approach empowers people to productively leverage their own oral health patient information, which has beneficial impacts on families, communities and the global oral health landscape.
With no formal product design experience, the team, as Cordova puts it, “made their idea real and easily tested it in real conditions” using Fusion 360. “(With Fusion 360), we were given the ability to show, improve and optimize our idea, and it was easy to take our device from idea to concept.”
Next steps for the device include making prototypes for user testing, and then fine-tune the product for broader production.
“We truly expect this device to work and solve a real problem in healthcare around the world,” Cordova concluded. “We know we have a lot of work left, but our plan is to test and optimize iteratively this prototype in real conditions, especially the optical requirements. An important milestone for design will be making it possible to take high-quality pictures for non-trained people. Then, we plan to test this device massively and, obviously, raise funds to move forward.”