There is a lot to consider in deciding when and how to make the jump to digital dentistry. From patient record keeping, to digital x-rays, to digital impression scanners, to chairside crown milling, to 3D printing of dentures in-office, the pace of integration is accelerating so rapidly, along with the investment. However, there is no denying the dynamics of the dental industry are dictating that it is not a matter of “if,” but “when” you make these digital leaps.
When thinking about investing in a new technology, such as a digital impression scanner, many dentists look at the return on investment based solely on the savings in impression material. The average practitioner likely does not comprehend how this equipment can also make them a better and more profitable dentist.
First, the data derived from a chairside digital impression has so many more applications than in-lab scans. While most labs have been producing digital impressions by scanning a traditionally poured model for several years the scans are not as accurate as an intraoral scan because they are actually a scan of a copy (actually, a positive copy of a negative copy), and only reside at the lab. A digital impression captured chairside is a direct representation of the actual tooth or arch, and can be used in a multitude of ways.
Picture the time and cost it would take to conventionally impress every patient so you have a record of their dental health from the time of their first visit. While this data would be extremely beneficial, it would be a cumbersome process and require impractical amounts of physical storage. It is easily accomplished with a digital impression scanner and archiving is as simple as storing the data on your computer. Think of the value of having this data as a reference and the ability to study any changes in the patient over time.
Once you have your baseline scan, you can then compare this to a scan taken anytime in the future. You can easily use the data from the original scan to reproduce a restoration that is identical to the tooth being replaced. Imagine having digital bite and dentition data readily available for future restorations so that you could return a patient back to their original state after trauma or major loss.
In a complicated case, imagine not having to worry that the final restoration will fit, will be aesthetically pleasing, or that your patient will be completely satisfied with the restoration the first time. Digital workflows will assure that this happens, and dramatically reduce, or eliminate, remakes. Even on simple, single unit cases, seating time is greatly reduced, which leads to increased productivity.
Better Case Planning
Having digital data lets you plan your case and better predict the outcome. Large cases with a change in vertical dimension, implant cases large and small, removable restorations, and all crown and bridge cases are all improved with today’s digital technology. The ability to scan data directly in the mouth, and then share those scans with colleagues, labs, or the rapidly growing number of designers and specialists anywhere around the world instantly, provides so many new treatment opportunities. improving Profits
It is a given that you will save money on impression material, but the more significant savings are a reduction in patient visits, remakes, and chair time to both take the impressions and seat the restorations. Labs are even beginning to give substantial discounts for sending digital impressions, due to the dramatically reduced production costs of producing, trimming and handling traditional models. Not to mention the confidence and reduced stress that you and your staff develop when seating cases that drop in the first time.
Digital impressions are not a fad or just the latest toy, they are already fundamentally changing the way restorative dentistry is being performed. The proven improvements in treatment results, opportunities in case planning, and huge reductions in costs all along the production workflow have ensured advances will continue. Already in the development pipeline of every major dental industry manufacturer, distributor, and a myriad of new entrants in the dental field, are improvements in software, milled and 3D printed materials that are certified for long-term use in the mouth, and digital impression scanners with faster, more easy-to-use interfaces.
The goal of dentists today should be to read as much as possible about this rapidly evolving technology, get as much hands-on experience as possible, talk to colleagues already taking digital impressions, then decide when is best to invest and begin integrating digital impressions into their practice. Much like moving to digital x-rays, that is a decision as personal and unique as dentists themselves.
There is no denying digital impressions unlock opportunities, and in future articles for The Profitable Dentist magazine, we will be keeping readers informed about advances, experiences, and providing product comparisons and reviews, all focused on making dentistry better, and dentists more profitable.
Richard Motto is the CEO & President of CAD BLU, Inc. With 25 years in digital technology, and 14 of those years in digital dentistry, Richard is considered an expert in the fields of digital dentistry and additive manufacturing (3D printing). He was one of the first innovators of open systems to the laboratory – experienced in full integration of clinical and lab solutions.