Quality and Cost Savings for the Laboratory
Premium intraoral scanners can make a significant impact
While intraoral scanners may be found primarily in the hands of dentists, they can provide several significant benefits for dental laboratories. Most remakes are caused by defective impressions, and scans can reduce those by upward of 70%. Shipping costs also can be reduced as scans can be sent instantaneously to the laboratory. Additionally, while models typically are made free of charge for analog cases, we can charge for 3D printed models from a scan. Not every intraoral scanner is equal, however. The quality of the end product is dependent on the quality of the scan. When some dentists purchase cheaper brands and try to use them for partial denture cases, for example, the products do not end up fitting 100% accurately. With the leading scanners on the market, however, we can achieve perfect fits.
What are some of most exciting developments you are seeing in scanners?
The leading manufacturers now make scanning full dentures possible. That is exciting because a fully digital workflow can then be implemented. Currently, all scanners can be utilized for crown-and-bridge and implants, but options for partials or full-arches are limited. The better the technology and software become, the more digital the workflow can be.
Another feature I really like is when a scanner's software approves or rejects scans for us. We know anything we get from those scanners will work, so we do not need to inspect each scan and contact the dentist when one is not sufficient.
What are the most important factors you considered when purchasing?
Look at monthly fees and licenses. Some are more expensive than others, which impacts the bottom line. Additionally, some scanners have disposable sleeves, whereas others require the purchase of a replacement for the mirror approximately every 150 scans, so the cost of those must be considered, along with disinfecting the wand in between scans. Some software programs allow the dentist to mark their own margins, whereas others do not. Different solutions may be best for each dentist's workflow.
What is the ROI factor for a dentist?
ROI can be difficult for a dentist to justify because they are primarily saving only on impression materials. More financial benefits exist for the laboratory, which can save on shipping, models, and remakes. For my laboratory, the math adds up to a strong ROI when I purchase scanners for my dentists. I have also found that providing a scanner to a dentist typically increases our volume for that office by 30%.
Proper training and technique remain important. A scanner is not a magic wand; whatever the dentist sees on the screen is what we see. If they cannot see the margins, I will not be able to see them; if the bite is open, it will be open on the crown. Using a scanner correctly requires practice, so I suggest starting with single crowns for the first 3 to 4 weeks before advancing to 3-unit bridges and finally partials and full arches.
About the Author
Ben Topaz is President of Golden Ceramic Dental Lab in Prospect Heights, Illinois.