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The first work by Leonardo Da Vinci that caught my attention was “The Skull c. 1489,” a sketch of the human skull. Frontal facing, sectioned in the midline with the left half showing the complete three-dimensional view and the right side showing a coronal section at the level of the mental foramen — the attention to detail is astonishing. The maxillary tooth in the coronal section is multirooted; the mandible is correctly sketched with an outer solid layer of cortical bone, while the inner layer is cavernous to depict medullary bone.  The maxillary and frontal sinuses are accurately depicted. Its anatomical detail has withstood the test of time.

It’s as if Da Vinci were looking at a CBCT of a person and sketching the image on paper. But he wasn’t. In fact, his sketch predates CBCT technology by 500 years. So how did he do it? Was he merely a gifted artist?  After all, his painting “The Mona Lisa” has been attributed the world’s most recognized smile.

Da Vinci was a gifted artist, but his true gifts surpassed taking pencil or brush to paper or canvas. His true gifts were rooted in his ability to observe his surroundings and develop a deep understanding of why things occur. Years of dissecting cadaver heads in the middle of the night in hospital basements deepened Da Vinci’s understanding of bony anatomy as well as inserting and attaching locations of facial muscles used in the process of smiling. His greatest gift, in my opinion, was his relentless pursuit of improvement. While there is no exact time frame for how long the “Mona Lisa” took to complete, in the biography, Leonardo Da Vinci, author Walter Isaacson states Da Vinci worked off and on this painting from 1503 to 1517 — 14 years for one work. A master unwilling to call his own work complete until he deems it perfect.

Observe. Innovate. Improve. As an oral surgeon committed to delivering optimal implant results to my patients, I use these three ideals to guide the continual evolution of my practice. Members of a patient’s dental implant team (restoring doctor, implant surgeon, dental laboratory technician) cannot be stagnant and unwilling to embrace at least some of the digital technology, which allows us to communicate more effectively, diagnose more completely, plan more precisely, and execute a treatment plan more accurately.

Da Vinci lived during the Renaissance, a period that saw a cultural rebirth of artistic, political, and economic ideals. Aren’t we, as oral health providers, living through a “Dental Renaissance”— a period when advancements in image acquisition (intraoral scanning, CBCT, digital photography, photogrammetry, facial scanning) and dental implant guided surgery (static guided surgery, dynamic navigation, robotic surgery) are allowing us to perform more complex dental implant procedures in a minimally invasive surgical manner to achieve more predictable, esthetic results than in any other time?

Leonardo Da Vinci would not recognize the world will live in today. Even with his fantastical imagination, he would probably not believe most of the creature comforts we have at our disposal. But what he would recognize and understand, what has not changed, and what should never change, is our pursuit of achieving the perfect smile for our patients.

 

Michael J. Hartman, DMD, MD



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