For the launch of our complete posterior solution, we wanted dental professionals not just to hear about the many benefits, but to experience them for themselves. The latest technology gave us the means to do just that. The idea of creating the first virtual dental implant surgery was born. The big challenge was to make it a reality. We talk to the surgeon and the director behind the world’s first virtual reality dental implant surgery.

Finding the right team

If it was to happen, a dental implant surgery had to be filmed from the surgeon’s perspective and in multiple angles. With the project being the first of its kind, we needed the right crew and, crucially, the right clinician.

Turning a surgeon’s operating room into a film studio was always going to be a big ask, but when we approached Dr. Tristan Staas in the Netherlands about the project, he didn’t have to think about it for long.

“I was surprised by the question,” Dr. Staas admitted, “I’d never actually thought about the possibility of using virtual reality as a training tool before.

“It’s in my nature to try new things, so I felt excited to be part of this unique project.”

Dr. Staas wears a special GoPro helmet to film the virtual reality surgery

A helmet customized with six GoPro cameras recorded the surgery from all angles

Overcoming the challenges

The film crew at iamproduction, based in Stockholm, Sweden, were also enthusiastic when they received the brief, though their focus quickly turned to the practicalities, as the project’s director Martin Roeck Hansen explained:

“At first I got really excited, but then came the usual thoughts about how to make it work, what type of cameras we would have to use and, most importantly, how we could make the film so that it offered an enhanced experience for the viewer.”

And, as with any ‘first’, there were challenges.

“I think I initially thought this project would be easier, but right now there are no plug-and-play solutions for this type of project,” Martin explained.

“Everything was custom built and developed, both in terms of hardware and software. As we were under time pressure to be ready for the launch of the complete posterior solution, the timescales were my main concern.

“Once it became clear that we had built a camera rig that would work, I could relax a bit and focus on the actual filming.”

Dr. Tristan Staas prepares for dental implant surgery

Virtual surgery, filmed in reality: Dr. Staas prepares the patient for surgery

No second takes

After months of preparation, the day of filming was tense for all involved. The team filmed the surgery using a helmet customized with six GoPro cameras to capture a 360° view of the operating room, from the perspective of the surgeon.

“For the first 10 minutes I had to get used to working with the helmet on my head”, Dr. Staas recalls, “But I got used to it fast, so it didn’t affect the surgery”.

During an operation there’s no chance to call “cut” and film another take, which put added pressure on the film crew.

“It was nerve-wracking as it was the first time we’d had a project like this and we only had one chance to get it right”, Martin explained. “It took a lot of setting up, and because we were in another room during the surgery I could only give directions to Dr. Staas via a headset. I had to give almost all of the direction before the operation began. And of course we had to keep the directions to a minimum so that Dr. Staas could focus on the surgery – there was no chance for second takes.”

Virtual surgery made real

The surgery was a success, with Dr. Staas placing the components from our complete posterior solution without problem and the crew’s custom devices capturing the procedure as hoped.

So, were they pleased with the end result? For Dr. Staas, watching the surgery back in virtual reality was a surreal experience:

“It’s a bit strange to see yourself doing the surgery again, but it matches reality very well and it really feels like you are in the surgery.” Martin agrees that seeing the operation through the Oculus Rift DK2 virtual reality headset meant all the effort had been worthwhile: “I think it’s an amazing film that shows there’s a lot of promise for future virtual reality films.”

dental implant treatment in virtual reality

The final result: virtual dental implant treatment through the eyes of a surgeon.

The future of dental implant training?

Dr. Staas even envisages that the film could open the door to new training methods for dental professionals:

“I now think virtual reality can become a valuable complement when training surgeons. It’s the closest they can get to the real thing – they can experience the procedures almost as if they are doing it themselves.

More to explore

 Disclaimer: Not all featured products may be regulatory cleared/released for sale in all markets. Please contact the local Nobel Biocare sales office for current product assortment and availability.

Posted by Michael Stuart