If you are in the clinical dental field, then you can understand the frustration of taking a first, second (or third) impression for everything from a crown to Invisalign impressions. The wide array of patient mouth morphology if fact makes it nearly impossible to learn how to take a perfect impression, making a providers job hard and a patient’s experience arduous.
Our office recently invested in a new digital scanner called the iTero Element Intraoral Scanner which has really revolutionized the impression procedure for our back-office staff. Invisalign has become a such a mainstay that we end up taking multiple initial impressions a week for patients looking to improve their smiles.
The excitement about the new scanner was through the roof until we began our first scan which took us almost 30 minutes and seemed to be even more cumbersome than taking a traditional PVS impression and bite registration. What’s the point of a digital scanner if the original impressions are actually more efficient; maybe the tech is not at the necessary level yet? It quickly became evident our approach was not the correct way and we needed some guidance.
Itero sent us a representative the following week, who expertly explained the correct positioning and scanning angles. The company claims that the iTero is able to scan both arches and bite profile in under two minutes but the typical scans will generally be around 5 minutes. CAD/CAM scanning systems have existed in the dental field for years but the iTero’s fast processing and partnership with Invisalign really seems to be hugely advantageous. One by one, every member of our dental office practiced scanning with plastic arches and focused on the order of operations and specific advice given.
Being the dental assistant in the office, the bulk of the impression-taking and Invisalign processing fell upon my shoulders so mastering this cutting-edge technology became a mission. Our lovely dental hygienist Lea used me a test dummy and practiced on me which was insightful both for her and me. Sensitive sections of the mouth became obvious and allowed me to better understand the patient experience. The race to beat my last complete scan time was underway using the timer on the corner of the screen and it sure was a serious competition!
Starting off with my first couple scans I averaged a whopping 30 minutes to do a complete time. Our hygienist Lea stepped in twice because of my struggle to scan the IP regions of the molars in patients with small mouths. Though the technology of digital dental scanning has come leaps and bounds, the need for more progress is obvious when looking at the bulky scanning iTero wand. How can I beat my time? Is it the angle, or is it the speed? There must be a way. I Slowly but surely I shaved of 5 minutes of my initial time, then another, then another. By my 10th scan, I was already down to under 15 minutes and you can see it in the patients expression.
Avoiding using impression material and trays that is the most dreaded part of the consultation appointment is not the only benefit that iTero’s system offers. Following the completion and uploading of the digital impressions and bite registration Invisalign does a—- preliminary 3-D model —– that shows the final smile within 15 minutes. This allows the patient to get a rough idea of how their teeth will look and is a useful tool to see if Invisalign is right for them. The iTero system can also send impression files to dental labs for other types of processing as well.
As more and more technological advances such as iTero digital scanner propel the field of dentistry into the modern era of healthcare, the precision and efficiency will garner a better patient experience.