Inside Dental Technology
October 2020
Volume 11, Issue 9

Capturing New Efficiencies Using a “Direct-to-Laboratory” Workflow

Intraoral scanning technology offers various benefits

Nelson Rego, CDT

When my brother and I founded our laboratory 40 years ago, we made investing in innovation a top priority. We constantly search for ways to improve our day-to-day operations, customer service, and ultimately, patient quality of life. The last 15 years have constituted one of the most exciting and productive periods for restorative dentistry. Digital technology—including intraoral scanning and cloud-based project tools—has radically changed the way we conduct our trade.

Digital intraoral scanning provides laboratories inherent and important advantages that increase efficiency. Compared to analog impression receipt and traditional stone model protocols, digital scans are highly accurate and easy to share, improving confidence during fabrication and making cross-discipline collaboration easier. Cloud security is an added benefit; a scan hosted on a server cannot be destroyed or lost in transport.

Manufacturers continue to develop new features that make these scans even more workable and valuable. For instance, several of our top referring dentists have implemented Align Technology's iTero Element, which produces very accurate scans that are easy to access digitally. This system also includes a feature wherein minor scan "gaps" are automatically cleaned up by a team of experienced CAD technicians via the cloud, ensuring our scans are completely validated and reducing our need for in-house CAD technicians to refine scans.

Although the benefits of digital scanning and collaboration present many exciting opportunities, it has become clear that innovation has not run its course in our industry, as vendors continue to provide new solutions that deliver business value and make our lives easier. We recently helped pilot a new feature called the "MyiTero" platform, a novel direct-to-laboratory function that facilitates real-time communication with dentists while their patient is in the chair. Using this feature, we can assess a dentist's optimized and trimmed intraoral scan immediately upon capture, providing feedback and soliciting specific action from the dentist where required. If we conclude the scan needs further clarity and cleanup, we have the option to send it immediately to Align's iTero Modeling team. By cutting down the need to go back and forth, we save time for our laboratory, the dentist's office, and their patients.

When you have plied a trade for decades, it can be tempting to fall back on "business as usual." Humans are creatures of comfort, and we often gravitate toward things we already know. Staying on the cutting edge of an innovative industry takes commitment, patience, and a small appetite for risk. However, if you do your due diligence, investigate technologies that provide tangible value, and put time into leveraging technology to improve your collaborative partnerships, you can create an ecosystem that improves everyone's quality of life—as well as your bottom line.

Key Takeaways

iTero Element produces accurate scans that are easy to access
Minor scan "gaps" are automatically cleaned up by team of experienced CAD technicians via the cloud
"MyiTero" platform facilitates real-time communication between dentist and laboratory while the patient is in the chair
Time is saved for the dentist, laboratory, and patient

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions contained in the preceding material are not of the editors, publisher, or the Editorial Board of Inside Dental Technology.

About the Author

Nelson Rego, CDT
Smile Designs by Rego
Santa Fe Springs, CA

Manufacturer Information
Align Technology

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