Key upgrades make for easier intraoral scanning

June 27, 2019

Why Catapult Education gave the iTero Element 2 from Align Technology its vote of confidence.

Digital methods are rapidly transforming the dental profession, with new technology being introduced almost daily. Clinicians are constantly looking for ways to improve their practice workflows and efficiency, and it seems utilizing digital methods over traditional analog methods may help. When adopting a digital practice workflow, one of the first purchases is most likely a digital intraoral scanner.

Intraoral scanners have been used in dentistry for several decades. These systems have seen improved success and adoption over the years.

Today, scanners are being used as a standalone device to replace analog impression taking. Through multiple manufacturers, technological advancements, increased capabilities and improved accuracy, scanners are now a staple in the industry.

Align Technology is at the forefront of technological advancement with its iTero scanners. The first restorative standalone scanner, the iTero scanner, was originally designed and manufactured by Cadent and acquired by Align Technology in 2011.

It’s an open architecture system that allows for communication with multiple CAD/CAM systems. Thousands of laboratories accept the scans generated from the iTero platform. The scans can be used for multiple clinical implications in dentistry. In addition, the iTero scanner offers chairside mill connectivity, allowing dentists to produce indirect restorations in office, if so desired.

In an effort to drive continued progress improvement, Align has endeavored to bring hardware and software innovations that continue to build on its strong foundation of user and patient experience.

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About the product                                                                   

In May of 2018, Catapult Education was engaged by Align Technology to evaluate the iTero Element 2 intraoral scanner. This scanner was released in spring of 2018 and is the most improved cart-based scanner in the iTero family.

The claimed improvements over previous technology include:

  • Next-generation processor designed to improve startup time and scan speed

  • High-definition visuals with a larger 21.5-inch monitor and 16:9 widescreen viewing format

  • Uninterrupted scanning via the addition of a rechargeable battery, allowing the system to be moved without unplugging-with a fully charged battery, the user can scan for 30 minutes without having to plug in

  • Ergonomic wand placement by placing the wand in the center of the screen, rather than the side

  • Stunning color image

  • Smarter scanning by improving the wand touchpad to minimize the use of the actual screen

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The evaluation

This evaluation was performed over a six-month period by six members of Catapult Education.

Five of the six evaluating clinicians had previous experience with other scanners. Three had experience with previous versions of iTero. Other scanners the clinicians had experience with included 3M™ True Definition, 3Shape TRIOS®, Dental Wings Intraoral Scanner and CEREC Omnicam.

Several defined areas were reviewed at both the three- and six-month stages of this evaluation. These will be referred to as “initial” and “final” for the results.

Improved scanning experience: The responses were overwhelmingly favorable. Most evaluators mentioned it was better or far better than their previous scanning experiences. Only one evaluator mentioned the experience was comparable to a previous experience.

The improvements commented upon were speed, screen size and ease of data capture. Many evaluators wished for a slightly smaller wand size to make certain areas accessible. The wand cord was also noted as a potential improvement, as it crosses the patient during scanning. With those areas being mentioned, it was noted additional training could help overcome any concerns.

Perceived improvement to scan speed, accessibility and completeness: Most of the evaluators perceived the improved design was favorable for scan speed and completeness of scans. The evaluators all liked the scan speed, and it was even mentioned that this scanner captures data faster than competitor scanners. The accessibility of the wand was met with mixed reviews, as certain areas were hard to access due to the wand size.

Bug-free interface: The results were once again favorable to the new design. Of note were the prescription and workflow. The system was noted to be  “bug-free” and evaluators liked the way the scans can be manipulated by touch and shared with patients easily from all angles. One evaluator said the system was “near perfect.” It was mentioned a single scan, as opposed to individual prep scans, would be preferred. Also, one evaluator noted overall image clarity could be improved.

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Desirable wand cradle location: The cradle of the new iTero Element 2 was moved to the front center of the scanner below the screen. The previous version had the cradle on the side of the screen. Overall, the new cradle position was found to be favorable, easy to clean and easy to use, and it was easy to move the scanner with the new position.

Convenience of new battery pack: Another addition to the scanner is a battery pack to allow use without an electrical outlet. Upon setup of the scanner, the battery pack was easy to install. It was found that the battery pack improves the mobility and efficiency of the scanner and would last for a sufficient number of scans. It’s important to note the evaluators used an outlet for the majority of the scans; however, they unanimously mentioned the battery pack would improve mobility of the scanner.

Improved visualization: The increased screen size was found to be favorable by all evaluators. The doctor with no previous scanning experience even mentioned he “loved” the screen size. Two doctors also noted the improved screen size helped both the clinician and the patient to visualize the scans.

Modern, technology-forward design: Following a specific evaluation of the new screen, the overall design was evaluated and found to be overwhelmingly favorable. A comment that sums up the overall design was “The system is very modern and appropriate for today’s dental world. It is nice to look at, and patients notice it immediately.”

Profound impact on workflows: One hundred percent of the evaluators felt this scanner would have a profound impact on their current workflows because of its ease of use. Evaluators also mentioned the digital scanning was impressive, their staff was on board with the technology and restorative workflows were more efficient. When asked about the biggest advantage, ease of use was once again a common answer. The system was even described as “easily adopted” and accurate.

Impressive patient experience: The evaluators were asked about their patients’ perceptions, and 100 percent of the evaluators reported their patients were impressed. Patients “loved the experience,” they “didn’t gag” and were overall “wowed” by the technology. This is huge for new technology!

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Suggested improvements: Evaluators felt the wand size could be decreased to improve the scanner. The cord was mentioned as a hindrance by one evaluator as well.

Plan to purchase following evaluation: All of the evaluators plan on incorporating this technology into their practices. The general perception was the advancements were enough to warrant the purchase.

The evaluators unanimously said they’ll recommend this scanner to their colleagues. Improved features, speed, accuracy and educational capabilities were all mentioned as attributes they would share when discussing the scanner among colleagues.

Conclusion

With the digital age of dentistry in full effect, it’s imperative a newly released scanner be relevant and dynamic. Align Technology excelled by creating a multifunctional, intuitive, advanced and accurate scanner. The scanner was well received by the dentists and impressive to the patient.

Previous users will always have desired improvements with each version released. However, it’s extremely impressive the “beginner” user was able to adapt so quickly and realize the potential. It’s obvious through this evaluation the iTero organization has done a great job by placing an excellent, improved scanner in the dental marketplace. It’s no surprise the iTero Element 2 is given the Catapult Education “Vote of Confidence.”

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