A trip to the dentist's lab

3 March 2010. Edmonton, AB, Canada

Last Friday I had a pleasant trip to the dentist's office. It was pleasant only because I was not the one being examined!

With the helpful pointers of the graduate students at the University of Alberta Laboratory of Vertebrate Paleontology, I recruited the generous help of scientists at the University of Alberta Department of Dentistry with the CT-scanning of a few mammal skulls.

[it was crucial to place the specimen at just the right height to be scanned within the window of the sensor.]

To test-run the modeling protocol that I use here on the University of Alberta campus, I borrowed a few modern carnivore skulls from the University of Alberta Museum of Zoology to scan. One of the specimens was a genet skull from Africa, about the optimum size to be scanned with the medical dental scanner that we used.

[the medical CT scanner is normally used for orthodontic patients; specimens had to be propped to head level of a sitting human.]

The resolution was excellent for the type of research that I do; the skulls were scanned into image slices of 0.25 mm thickness. Test models are being constructed to analyze the biomechanics of mastication from the scan data.

[the data acquisition software was rather user-friendly and could be learned in less than 10 minutes.]


Thanks are due to my wife Juan whose assistance made the scanning session go smoothly.