Products in practice: Greater accuracy, faster impressions with digital scanning

February 10, 2015

By now, most of us are familiar with the concept of digital scanning. However, if it’s been awhile since you’ve thought about whether you should add one of these devices to your practice, now would be a great time to review.

By now, most of us are familiar with the concept of digital scanning. However, if it’s been awhile since you’ve thought about whether you should add one of these devices to your practice, now would be a great time to review.

Like most new technologies, the early models of digital scanners came with rather high prices and limited capabilities. But today, there are options priced low enough to quickly pay for themselves, plus some systems can be used for much more than just crowns.

I have used the 3M™ True Definition Scanner for less than a year, but I have already seen a number of impressive benefits:

Related reading: 3M ESPE Senior Systems Engineer offers insights and perspectives on 3M™ True Definition Scanner

Accuracy
Before I purchased a digital scanner, my office scheduled half an hour for most single crown delivery appointments. It wasn’t always necessary, but we blocked the time off to allow for the occlusal and interproximal adjustments that seemed to be needed with nine out of 10 crowns. Today, I might adjust one out of 100 crowns-the fit of a restoration made with this scanner is that much better. Nearly all of them snap right into place with no adjustments. The margins are virtually undetectable when you run the explorer across the tooth.  

The accuracy of these restorations is so much better that we don’t schedule time in the main chair anymore for seating appointments. I can perform single unit and bridge deliveries in a side room in three- or four-minute breaks from my main appointments.

Video: 3M™ ESPE's updated 3M True Definition Scanner software improves digital impression abilities

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Faster impressions
Taking a traditional impression using our old material took less than three minutes. That’s not bad, but it’s not as good as the 60 seconds it takes for an experienced user to capture an entire arch with the 3M True Definition Scanner once the field is prepared. The scanner saves so much time that I am able to perform one additional crown case per day. It is also more engaging for both the dentist and the patient. With traditional impression material, I would leave the room and attend to other tasks while the material was setting, but with the digital scanner, your attention stays on the appointment and the patient.

Related reading: Align Technology Invisalign® cases now compatible with 3M™ True Definition Scanner

Faster workflows
I primarily use my scanner to create crowns, bridges, partials and clear aligners, and the turnaround time with all of these is much faster than traditional impressions. While the turnaround time for a crown made from a traditional impression used to be two weeks, I now get restorations back in three to four days. Not only does this help my practice finish cases for patients more quickly, it keeps our schedule flowing better.

The scanner can also generate an STL file that can be sent to any lab, so the digital impression can be used with a wide range of material, design and production options.

The ‘wow’ factor
The difference in comfort that digital scanning makes for patients is unbelievable. We no longer need to worry about patients gagging or conditions like mandibular tori getting in the way of trays and impression materials. In addition, the wand of our digital scanner is the smallest on the market, so fitting it behind second or even third molars is not a problem.
Patients can see the scan for themselves and better understand the high-tech nature of the restoration process.

Related reading: 3M ESPE’s latest 'Trusted Connection' teams the 3M True Definition Scanner with the Straumann CARES System

The bottom line
For many years, cost was one of the main factors that kept dentists from adopting digital scanning. But since I have been using my digital scanner, it has already paid for itself and then some. With the ability to do one additional crown case at $1,300 per day, my practice has the potential to generate an extra $26,000 in just one month. Combine this with the fact that I am no longer buying impression material, which costs approximately $10,000 a year, and the digital scanner gives me the ability to add hundreds of thousands of dollars in production in just a single year.

While risk aversion can be a healthy thing for a business owner, digital scanning technology has progressed to a point where it presents very little risk for the dentist. The many benefits-outstanding accuracy, reduced chairtime, flexible workflows and patient friendliness-add up to a clear and compelling return on investment.