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Making a Great Impression
A new perspective on digital impressioning
Chad C. Duplantis, DDS
Digital impressioning is an incredibly dynamic aspect of dentistry that should no longer be considered a luxury. In recent years, it has quickly become a “must have” in clinical practice. In fact, most practitioners have probably benefitted from the technology, even if they do not own a digital scanner or CAD/CAM system themselves. If you are contemplating entering this new “digital age of dentistry,” there are multiple factors to consider prior to making a purchase to help make integration seamless.
Communicate the Change
Restorations created from digital impressions improve the patient experience and have clinical benefits that the whole office will appreciate. The effect on the patient is the most important consideration when integrating digital scanning. Patients should always know that they are the top concern, as poor perceptions of a clinician’s technique could negatively impact that dental office’s success. According to recent studies, patients prefer a digital impression approach over a conventional impression approach.1 Inform your patients about why you have made this change. Let them know that they will be receiving a better restoration with the technology. Your patients will appreciate the insight, especially while your scanning speed is improving during the initial learning curve.
When it comes to your staff, ensure a commitment to change and willingness to learn, as resistance to learning a new technology is one of the biggest failures of incorporating it into a practice. While there is a learning curve associated with any new technology, including digital scanners, and it is not an exact science, all staff members should be fairly competent after completing 20 scans.
Reduce Your Costs
Although laboratory costs will be greatly reduced, eliminating the lab bill should not be the ultimate goal of switching to digital impressioning. Indeed, the dental laboratory should still be an integral part of the restorative practice. A common misconception with regard to dental laboratories is that all restorations must be CAD-produced. However, the impressions and models created from open systems allow the production of any type of restoration. The lab will benefit from the lack of distortive potential in transporting the models and the percentage of remakes will decrease as well, strengthening the relationship with the laboratory. These benefits should also reduce the time needed to seat the restoration.2 It is important to have your laboratory participate in the decision to bring a scanner into the practice, especially if you have a long-standing relationship with them.
The cost of the system itself is another important factor to consider, of course. It is necessary to look at other components aside from the initial costs, such as monthly usage fees, software upgrades, and warranties. Every system, from least to most expensive, has unique fees for usage and upgrades based on the different capabilities of each. While cost should be acknowledged, it is not the only factor to consider.
Understand the Potential
Digital impressioning systems have a unique feature in that they are easily integrated into any clinical practice with minimal upfront investment. Although a dentist may prefer not to mill initially, I recommend purchasing a scanner with milling capability, as that will eliminate the need to purchase a new scanner later if the dentist decides to mill after continued use with the device.
The capabilities and contraindications of every system that is currently available will vary. It is important for practitioners to consider these features before going digital. Retraction and proper preparation isolation is necessary, as none of the systems currently on the market can properly scan through or around blood, tissue, or saliva.3 For any system, the impressioning technique is similar to traditional impressioning techniques because the principles remain the same.
To get a feel for what works best in your individual practice, experiment with the available scanners. Do your research, test a few systems, and ask questions. The financial rewards aside, digital impressioning technology is fascinating and greatly enhances the patient experience, and will infuse some new excitement into your career.
Digital Impression Systems
Reasons to Invest
• Quicker and easier seating of restorations
• Strengthened laboratory relationships
• Proven accuracy
• Decreased percentage of remakes
• Reduced long-term costs
• Weigh the benefits of digital impressioning for your patients and practice
• Research the capabilities of available scanners
• Understand upfront and on- going costs (eg, monthly usage fees, upgrades)
• Consider future milling capabilities
Keys to Integration
• Make sure your staff is willing and able to learn the new technology
• Include the laboratory in the decision to bring a scanner into the practice
• Test out a variety of systems to ensure you choose the right one to integrate in your practice
• Allow time for the learning curve so all staff can become comfortable with the new system
1. Yuzbasioglu E, Kurt H, Turunc R, Bilir H. Comparison of digital and conventional impression techniques: evaluation of patients’ perception, treatment comfort, effectiveness and clinical outcomes. BMC Oral Health. 201414:10. doi:10.1186/ 1472-6831-14-10.
2. Stover J. Successfully integrating digital impressions into the practice. Inside Dental Assisting website. www.dentalaegis.com/ida/2011/12/successfully-integrating-digital-impressions-into-the-practice. Accessed March 1, 2016.
3. Christensen GJ. Will digital impressions eliminate the current problems with conventional impressions? J Am Dent Assoc. 2008;139(6):761-763.
About the Author
Chad C. Duplantis, DDS, has been in dental practice for the past 15 years. He is co-owner of a private practice in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Duplantis is a participant in the Save-a-Smile dental program, a volunteer at Mission Arlington, and a volunteer for Christina’s Smile Dental Program. These programs all provide dental care to underprivileged children in Tarrant County.