A Critical Piece of the Workflow
Efficiency is a priority as accuracy is now primarily user-dependent
Jay Collins and Kyle Russell
Despite the increasing digital capabilities of many laboratories, a surprising number of dentists still use conventional methods for impressions. Therefore, desktop scanners remain very important. If our laboratory receives 50 intraoral scans in one day, we will likely get 100 conventional impressions. On those conventional cases, the job of the scanner is extremely important; after the model department, we are the first ones to work on the case, so if it is not scanned in correctly, then the entire outcome of the case will be affected.
What features do you look for in a scanner?
Speed is the most important factor for our laboratory. The length of time required to scan a model became a problem for us at a certain point with our older scanners. Everything comes down to workflow: In order to maximize efficiency, we need to be able to scan a case of any size in less than 10 minutes. When technicians are sitting and waiting for the scanner to finish, that creates a lull and decreases productivity. With our newer scanners, however, often a scan will be complete before the technician is even ready for it, which helps us keep everything moving. Another important factor is how large an object the scanner can accommodate; many of our cases still utilize metal articulators, so they need to be able to fit in the scanner.
With so many scanners now capable of scanning impressions, do you ever skip the model?
Predominantly, we still pour models for most cases. We have scanned impressions directly for time-sensitive, rushed cases in order to meet the demands of the dental practice and patient. We also have scanned impressions when sending cases to outsource partners. We do not do it often, though. The time savings do not outweigh the sacrifice in quality. If the impression is not perfect, then the scan will not be as good as if we pour the model. When we scan a model, the accuracy is very high. That is true for most scanners on the market at this point—almost all of them are very precise for models.
How much maintenance and calibration is necessary?
We place a high priority on keeping our scanners clean. When we are working with so many models, little pieces can break off and dust accumulates. If the scanner is not cleaned often, then that dust and debris can get into the moving parts and the camera lenses. We clean them every day and calibrate them every week. Calibration is so important; if you scan 100 cases in one day, the scanner likely will not be performing as well by the end of the day as it was at the beginning. Our scanners also are located in our CAD room on sturdy desks that are not being used for anything other than scan and design.
If you are buying a scanner, do your research. In particular, make sure your computers have the necessary capabilities to run the software. You could buy a top-of-the-line scanner, but if your computer does not meet the system requirements, then that scanner will not perform optimally.
About the Authors
Kyle Russell is a CAD/CAM Technician at Cornerstone Dental Labs in Bristol, Pennsylvania, and Jay Collins is the Owner.