Toward accurate tooth segmentation from computed tomography images using a hybrid level set model




A three-dimensional (3D) model of the teeth provides important information for orthodontic diagnosis and treatment planning. Tooth segmentation is an essential step in generating the 3D digital model from computed tomography (CT) images. The aim of this study is to develop an accurate and efficient tooth segmentation method from CT images.


The 3D dental CT volumetric images are segmented slice by slice in a two-dimensional (2D) transverse plane. The 2D segmentation is composed of a manual initialization step and an automatic slice by slice segmentation step. In the manual initialization step, the user manually picks a starting slice and selects a seed point for each tooth in this slice. In the automatic slice segmentation step, a developed hybrid level set model is applied to segment tooth contours from each slice. Tooth contour propagation strategy is employed to initialize the level set function automatically. Cone beam CT (CBCT) images of two subjects were used to tune the parameters. Images of 16 additional subjects were used to validate the performance of the method. Volume overlap metrics and surface distance metrics were adopted to assess the segmentation accuracy quantitatively. The volume overlap metrics were volume difference (VD, mm3) and Dice similarity coefficient (DSC, %). The surface distance metrics were average symmetric surface distance (ASSD, mm), RMS (root mean square) symmetric surface distance (RMSSSD, mm), and maximum symmetric surface distance (MSSD, mm). Computation time was recorded to assess the efficiency. The performance of the proposed method has been compared with two state-of-the-art methods.


For the tested CBCT images, the VD, DSC, ASSD, RMSSSD, and MSSD for the incisor were 38.16 ± 12.94 mm3, 88.82 ± 2.14%, 0.29 ± 0.03 mm, 0.32 ± 0.08 mm, and 1.25 ± 0.58 mm, respectively; the VD, DSC, ASSD, RMSSSD, and MSSD for the canine were 49.12 ± 9.33 mm3, 91.57 ± 0.82%, 0.27 ± 0.02 mm, 0.28 ± 0.03 mm, and 1.06 ± 0.40 mm, respectively; the VD, DSC, ASSD, RMSSSD, and MSSD for the premolar were 37.95 ± 10.13 mm3, 92.45 ± 2.29%, 0.29 ± 0.06 mm, 0.33 ± 0.10 mm, and 1.28 ± 0.72 mm, respectively; the VD, DSC, ASSD, RMSSSD, and MSSD for the molar were 52.38 ± 17.27 mm3, 94.12 ± 1.38%, 0.30 ± 0.08 mm, 0.35 ± 0.17 mm, and 1.52 ± 0.75 mm, respectively. The computation time of the proposed method for segmenting CBCT images of one subject was 7.25 ± 0.73 min. Compared with two other methods, the proposed method achieves significant improvement in terms of accuracy.


The presented tooth segmentation method can be used to segment tooth contours from CT images accurately and efficiently.