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Inside Dentistry
October 2022
Volume 18, Issue 10

Versatile Technology Helps Dental Practice in Competitive Market

Align Technology’s iTero Element™ 5D Plus imaging system facilitates improved diagnostics and more

Jennifer Bell, DDS

When Jennifer Bell, DDS, opened Signature Family Dentistry in suburban Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2010, she envisioned a small private practice that would feature both preferred provider organization (PPO) and fee-for-service models in a family-focused general practice with a heavy emphasis on restorative and preventive treatments. "We wanted to mix the look and feel of a private practice with back-end business features that supported efficiencies and economies of scale," Bell says. "To combine PPO and fee-for-service, we needed business applications, systems, and strategies to help the practice to thrive."

The practice was so successful that Bell opened a second location in 2017. "We provide a good mix of services to our community," Bell says. "We offer most treatments within the restorative realm, and we deliver care with the delicacy that comes with being a women-owned practice with a strong business acumen."

One of the most significant moves that Bell made for her practice was incorporating intraoral scanning approximately 7 years ago. Scanning was essential to in-office milling, which was an important addition to her business plan. However, she encountered some shortcomings with her first scanner, including issues related to outside laboratory workflows. "We were not achieving outcomes from laboratory fabricated restorations that were as predictable as those from what we milled in house," Bell says.

One of Bell's mentors had experienced similar challenges and recommended a new scanner that performed better: the iTero Element 2 scanner from Align Technology. "He found it to be incredibly consistent, efficient, and predictable," Bell says, "so I bought one immediately because that was a big piece of the puzzle that I was trying to solve." Two years later, she upgraded to the iTero Element 5D Plus imaging system in both practice locations, and it has exceeded her expectations. Built for ease of use, the iTero Element 5D Plus imaging system is the first hybrid dental imaging system that simultaneously records 3D, intraoral color, and NIRI (near-infrared imaging) images.* The latest iTero Element Plus Series imaging systems include Invisalign® Outcome Simulator Pro, which helps encourage clear aligner case acceptance by providing highly realistic in-face visualizations of a patient's potential future smile in minutes. "We started scanning to address our in-office milling needs," Bell says, "but we discovered so many advantages that we never appreciated previously, from improved diagnostics to the ability to effectively communicate with patients about their oral conditions, offer Invisalign® treatment, and more. We can capture a tremendous amount of data in a very short period of time that would otherwise require seven different modalities. The iTero Element 5D Plus imaging system provided a really great marriage of all of the different pieces that we needed."

According to Bell, the iTero Element 5D Plus imaging system is a transformational tool for improving case acceptance, including for Invisalign clear aligners, which has been a key part of her success. Even a layperson can identify certain abnormalities in the images that should be treated restoratively or orthodontically. "Particularly with newer patients, building the necessary level of trust can take time," she says. "Leaning on the technology allows patients to participate in the diagnostic process with us. They can see exactly what we see, so there is no mystery. Oftentimes, patients point out issues on their own. When they are the ones starting the conversation, we are much more likely to gain case acceptance, whether for restorative treatment or Invisalign clear aligner therapy." For clear aligner cases, the Invisalign Outcome Simulator Pro application allows patients to visualize the simulated final outcomes of their treatments, and the iTero TimeLapse technology allows them to see how their treatments are progressing. "Previously, we needed to ask patients to just trust that we would provide the outcome that they desired," Bell says.

Although Bell's primary reason for initially switching to the iTero Element 2 scanner was to improve the execution of restorative cases, both in-office and with her laboratory partners, she is realizing a great return on her investment in the latest iTero Element 5D Plus imaging system by using it for everything from crowns and bridges to veneers, implants, and even removable prostheses. For laboratory cases, she can send STL files directly or export them from the cloud portal. "It works seamlessly for us," she says. "The deliverables that we receive from the laboratory prove that the quality of the scan is excellent. If we do our part, the laboratory produces restorations that we can deliver in a much more efficient and predictable way than we could with analog impressions or even previous scanners."

The other applications of the iTero Element 5D Plus imaging system provide added value. For example, the iTero NIRI technology can aid in the diagnostic workflow by helping to detect and monitor interproximal caries above the gingiva in real time. "It is a very useful tool to support radiographs," Bell says. According to Align, surveyed dentists indicated that the iTero Element 5D system helped to increase interproximal caries detection by 56%, business revenue by 34%, and patient acceptance by 71%.**

Bell emphasizes that versatile products are essential to a business like hers. "As dentists, we purchase a significant number of technologies to facilitate different modalities," she says. "I have tried to focus on implementing products and devices that will be more than one-trick ponies. I look for devices that have the potential to really expand our diagnostic capabilities, applications, restorative processes, etc., while also providing a bit of a ‘wow' factor to ensure that patients have that experience of being treated with cutting-edge technology. Although there are few devices that fit all of those criteria, for me, the iTero Element 5D Plus imaging system is definitely one of them."

Key Points

Benefit from 3D digital impressions, crisp intraoral scanning, treatment simulations, and more-all without harmful radiation.

The first 3D intraoral scanner with NIRI technology to aid in the diagnostic workflow.

Get patients excited about what their new smiles could look like with Invisalign Outcome Simulator Pro.

Work more efficiently with the laboratory by sending STL files directly or exporting them from an iTero cloud account.

*Data on File, Align Technology, December 4, 2018.
**Data on File, Align Technology, November 15, 2019.


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