Advanced Technology Makes Intraoral Scanning Easy
Q&A with Richard Rosenblatt, DMD
Inside Dentistry interviews Richard Rosenblatt, DMD, the founder of The Chicago Study Club and a private practitioner in Lake Forest, Illinois
Inside Dentistry (ID): What are the most exciting recent developments in intraoral impression scanning technology?
Richard Rosenblatt, DMD (RR): The most important development, in my opinion, has been the increased ease of use that has resulted from general improvements to the hardware and software. I have been using intraoral scanners since 2003, and there was a time when scanning a full arch was next to impossible. Now, I teach classes in which dentists successfully scan full arches 5 minutes after picking up a scanner for the first time. This allows us to do much more comprehensive dentistry more efficiently. It also can free up the dentist to focus on other tasks because team members can be trained to scan patients. In my office, providing aligners has become very easy because our team performs all of the scanning. In addition, we were able to make a team decision to eliminate stone and exclusively 3D print our models.
ID: What are the most important considerations when purchasing an intraoral impression scanner?
RR: The first step is to commit to purchasing one. The range of price points and features is so varied now that everyone can implement a basic scanner. Patients appreciate it, and the ability to instantly send data to a laboratory to collaborate on challenging cases is such a significant benefit. The next step is determining what your long-term plan is. Do you want to venture into same-day restorations, custom abutments, etc? If not, then almost any scanner on the market today will work for you. If you want to perform those more advanced in-office processes, however, then you need to make sure to get a system that includes the comprehensive package that is necessary. For me, using a scanner that integrates well with an in-office milling machine has been advantageous.
ID: You mention orthodontics, which is such a huge area of growth in the profession, in part because of increased case acceptance rates. How can scanning contribute to patients being more receptive to orthodontic treatment?
RR: We use the technology to improve patient communication and educate them in the chair. The images from an intraoral scan make it easy to show patients how their bite is not functioning correctly or how their teeth are misaligned. Several aligner companies even provide quick renderings at no cost. Patients really appreciate that comprehensive ability to see what their options and opportunities are.
ID: What developments do you think might be on the horizon?
RR: Although the hardware will continue to improve, the more impactful developments will likely involve the software. I anticipate seeing a lot more digital wax-ups that can be performed in-office. We are already seeing software modules that provide instant simulations for aligner therapy. As artificial intelligence continues to develop, we will see a lot more features like that. Improved software will allow us to be more comprehensive. Fabricating a single crown in 60 to 90 minutes is fairly easy, but more complex restorations are currently more difficult to fabricate in-house. It will also become more common for dentists to utilize intraoral impression scanners to track how patients' teeth are wearing over time. A few software programs already offer that capability, and I believe that more will in the future. Of course, affordability is always a factor for dentists, but I expect prices for intraoral impression scanners to decrease even further in the future, which will increase adoption rates.
ID: You mentioned price. How achievable is the ROI for intraoral impression scanners?
RR: You can calculate how much money you spend on impression material and how much time you spend on remakes. Many laboratories offer discounts for sending digital files. Some aligner systems also include a defined cost of $30 to $50 per impression. For me, the most important factor has been the general growth of my practice that has resulted from the ability to offer chairside dentistry. Being able to mill and deliver same-day restorations and eliminate second visits has created a buzz among patients that has been invaluable to me. Now, I am not only using my scanner for crowns but also using it to restore implants and more.
About the Author
Richard Rosenblatt, DMD
Lake Forest, Illinois