If you’ve spent any time practicing dentistry in the last ten years, you have probably been wondering about this yourself. When should you invest in once? A lot is happening in the world of dentistry. In that regard, you will see a few characteristics that make or break dental workflows. Here are the eight intraoral scanner features that I think you should not compromise on when you start scanning your patients. It will give you the answer to the question.
1- Versatile enough to help you through a busy day:
Let us do a mental exercise: let's say you got yourself an intraoral scanner. It’s wireless because you like the flexibility it gives you. You are maybe not scanning every patient every time yet, but you are close. And then, suddenly, you have a big day in the clinic with many, many patients. They keep coming. You keep scanning.
Then, you realize you forgot to charge the batteries of your scanner. By accident. What happens? You don’t want to be without a scanner. That’s why I recommend you lookout for a solution that allows for versatility. It should have both cords and wireless options. In terms of how easy it is to take the scanner from one room to the next. See how easily you can show, play, visualize and manipulate in 3D on the screen in front of the patient so they can see your visuals. Ergonomic design is essential for working with them standing up or sitting down.
Next, the tip. The tip needs heating to be ready to scan. So that takes time. Also, battery life. If you can get your hands on a scanner that heats up in just a few seconds so you can scan while preparing the patient, then that can also save you a lot of time.
2- Artificial Intelligence as an extra pair of hands:
Something else emerging in digital dentistry is artificial intelligence (AI). AI has proven to make dentistry better, but it is essential to ask yourself whether the intraoral scanner you have in mind utilizes artificial intelligence? And if it does, how does it work?
I know a lot of dentists who don’t know yet how far AI can go and how it can help in the dental world, so let me explain in simple words what it can do. Labs can, for example, automate their crown designs in a matter of seconds. Intraoral scanners can help detect surface caries without an additional scanning device. Move soft tissue such as the lips, tongue, cheeks to have a perfect starting point to plan your treatment. The arrival of AI makes it possible to let the scanner do all the manual work for you.
The screen shows how it appears without AI on one side. The other half shows how the scan is cleaned up nicely with AI technology. It makes it easier for you to do a very clean, detailed, and fast scan.
3- Easy on children (and adult patients):
As a doctor, you work for your patients. You want to ensure they are comfortable. Many adults suffer from dental anxiety, and even more so for children, dental visits can be a challenge. How many times have you had a crying child in your practice when they had to get their impression taken? Nobody likes to have an impression made, no matter how expensive the material is, the flavor or scent you use. You can use aromatherapy in the room to make the experience more ’comfortable’ – but it will never become pleasant.
It’s not hard to imagine how excited kids will be when they can see their mouths on a screen. Think of how an intraoral scanner can turn the experience around for children like that. These stories are priceless.
But then, of course, let’s not forget about our beloved adult patient demographic. How can your scanner turn a dentist visit into a pleasant experience for that audience as well? Tools to monitor the patient’s mouth over time, for example, or visualize their treatment in advance, can help make your treatments a pleasant experience.
Because do you remember what the tooth looked like three or six months ago when the patient was there? In these situations, it is valuable to have the ability to superimpose multiple scans and then show the outcome or the difference between the surface enamel. It allows you to quickly see small details that are not visible when looking at them with your eyes. As a clinician, you can then evaluate chemical or mechanical erosion of enamel and measure it by the millimeter!
Another thing to be on the lookout for with a scanner is the option to simulate a patient’s potential smiles. Vivid and realistic renderings of reality, superimposed on the patient smile, and just showing them how great they can look are a fantastic acceptance booster. It means a lot for patients to be able to see themselves.
4- Dynamic bite registration:
Motion is yet another of these things that you need to be aware of when getting an intraoral scanner. Not all scanners are capable of doing dynamic bite registration. What you want is that after you scan the upper and lower jaw, static occlusion, you can add mandibular excursions. So, you put the scanner in the patient's mouth in static occlusion, turn on the scanner and record the protrusion, retrusion, and laterotrusion.
Then, you can evaluate and perform diagnostics based on these contact points. Also, the ability to share this with your lab allows your dental technicians to use this info to design adapt your crown or any other restoration in your treatment plan. It will ensure a perfect fit of your crown with minimal to no occlusal adjustment since the lab uses the patient’s motion to adopt the design. How cool is that?
5- Color scanning:
Another thing is color. Back in the days monochrome was still the standard. However, the intraoral scanner has gotten better and better at color representation. As a GP or as a dental technician, you can benefit from this. Of course, when you have the patient on the chair, color is a great communication tool because you can perform a diagnostic scan and show their oral cavity in 3D and full color. These scans will also help in the conversation between clinician and patient. Think about it: you will have potential caries, current oral health status, oral hygiene, preparation assessment, and selection of enamel and dentin shade, all in one place!
However, let us not forget how the labs also benefit from this. Dental laboratories rely on the shade selection of the dentist. In this case, both the lab and doctor will have the same information. It will improve communication! It ensures predictable outcomes for the doctor and perfect aesthetics for the technician.
Let us take an example: when I'm performing a crown. I want to make sure that I know the exact shade details of my patient. It requires a shade measurement tool that allows me to detect the shade. In addition to the measurement of the enamel, the dentin as well. And I want that tool to support the industry’s most used shape measurement scales from Ivoclar Vivadent to VITA. Not only do I want to be able to visualize it myself - but I also want a quick way to send it to my lab. So, they will perfect aesthetics with the same shade that I read on the clinical side.
When you look at this rendering of color in the scan, you can see how it helps: you can see all the different micro leakages on those restorations.
6- Caries detection:
So as a clinician, one of the things you look out for on a day-to-day basis is caries. So why not go for detecting this with your intraoral scanner? Ideally, you use a solution that can handle both: regular 3D impressions and illuminating teeth in such a way that cavity detection is possible, for example, by using LED and fluorescence light. By placing an optical filter, this blue light will allow us to see potential bacterial accumulation on the enamel and dentin, and lesions will highlight the different shades of red.
3D color with intraoral scanner benefits:
The scan detects early, intermediate, or advanced stages of caries based on a scan. Also, the software can visualize bacterial accumulation. In general, I can potentially detect biofilm, plaque, or calculus. You can see how this functionality could also be an ideal tool for prophylaxis and hygiene education.
7- A cloud solution that brings everything together:
There is a risk of contamination and infection when working with analog models. And there's also the risk that the model's a bit more brittle and can break accidentally. Itis isn't possible when you store your 3D models in the cloud. Ideally, you work from one platform that serves as your desktop and gives you easy access to all the different steps in your workflow. There's no risk of contamination and -when you use a properly built cloud solution- you can bring in scans that you have taken long ago.
And you can export them into open file formats, which is the industry standard - or use a file format that includes the colors. And then you can send, of course, to other colleagues or straight to the dental laboratory. You want the platform for your digital dentistry to be easy to use. Any new user should go into the software and start scanning with an intraoral scanner.
8- Connectivity with your dentistry ecosystem:
The final thing you should consider as vital to your digital dentistry solution is to what extent it is open. In essence, there are two ways of approaching your digital dentistry investment (just like with investing in a computer, for example): do you want an open or closed system? And then what about the ecosystem in which you can work with it? How does the intraoral scanner interact with the different providers? And how does the ecosystem support your daily routines?
It is advantageous to choose an open ecosystem because you can send your cases to labs or other partners worldwide. Some of them will only offer specific things, but others will be offering a wide range of different treatment options. IT includes sleep appliances, clear aligners, or implants. An ecosystem means that you always have the option to grow from your regular day-to-day work and expand to bridgework and then implants, and so on. It allows you to transition from what you've been doing, grow from analog to digital, and then you can expand your possibilities because the tools are always at your disposal. Don't wait! Start your journey in the technology world with an intraoral scanner.