Photo courtesy of the author
Digital scan of pediatric dentition

Intraoral scanners for the pediatric patient

Dec. 1, 2020
Dr. Adrien Theriot says most dentists use an intraoral scanner for milling crowns, bridges, implant abutments, and Invisalign, but it can be used for so much more. She explains how this product has benefited her pediatric dental practice.

Are you tired of messy alginate impressions, cleaning up powder and goop from all over the floors and dental chairs, worrying about shrinkage of material en route to the lab, and getting frustrated that appliances don’t fit? I think it might be time to consider an intraoral scanner for your patients. In our pediatric dental and orthodontic practice, we have integrated the iTero intraoral scanner by Align Technology Inc., and we’re not looking back!

Most dentists use an intraoral scanner for milling crowns, bridges, implant abutments, Invisalign, etc., but it can be used for so much more. We have been scanning pediatric dental arches for fabrication of space maintainers, habit appliances, and active appliances such as palatal expanders. There are many benefits of switching from the old-fashioned impression trays and alginate technique to this new technology.

Easy to use

When introducing any new product into your practice, there may be a learning curve. iTero1 provides you and your team with virtual and hands-on training. During the training, the virtual scanner can observe real-time scanning and provide immediate feedback. The wand is lightweight, which is a plus for ergonomics and easy on those tired hands.

The monitor reveals the scanned hard and soft tissues immediately. You can zoom in, zoom out, and rotate on-screen to see areas that need further attention or that might have been missed, and the wand can be placed at that spot to continue scanning without starting over.

After the scan is completed, it can be sent virtually to a dental lab with just the click of a button. This eliminates the risk for impression material shrinkage while in transfer from the dental chair to the lab, and it allows for an appliance that fits properly.

Saves chair time

The iTero takes 6,000 frames per second. That’s fast! All of those frames match up to create a fascinating, highly detailed, and accurate virtual simulation of the mouth. The maxillary and mandibular arches with bite registration can be scanned in as few as 60 seconds with good practice. That saves you time on hand-mixing, transferring material to the trays, waiting for a full set while in the patient’s mouth, and eliminates the need for multiple impressions when diagnostic casts are also needed.

The system itself can be rolled from operatory to operatory without having to turn the machine off and on. This makes it easy to incorporate into the flow of your schedule and maximizes its use throughout the practice if multiple patients in various rooms need a scan within an hour.

Increases patient acceptance

It’s a no-brainer that children are not excited about a mouthful of “Play-Doh” no matter how much you dress it up with fancy or silly words! The intraoral scanner is
a game changer for fearful children or those with strong gag reflexes. You can take breaks any time during the scan and then pick up where you left off. This can rarely be done during a typical impression technique if not fully set yet, risking having to start all over again.

Children are excited to see their own teeth on the screen and watch them “magically” appear in live action. We use the “magic wand” to take a full scan of their teeth that they can view in 360 degrees on a colorful touch screen. And it’s painless. We can also educate patients and help them understand why they are receiving a certain appliance or space maintainer. We can show which teeth they have or are missing, how they bite together, etc. That means no more tears, but instead engaged patients who are excited about their trip to the dentist.

Serves as a practice builder

While the initial cost may be high, an intraoral scanner will earn its place within your practice time and time again. Parents are looking for innovative ways to keep their children happy and stress-free at their dental appointments. I have found that when presenting a treatment plan involving a dental appliance or space maintainer, the first concern some parents have is the impression part of the appointment. Some even recall a negative experience of their own. When I explain how quick and gentle the scan will be compared to traditional impression techniques, parents accept the plan without hesitation, and they are amazed once they can see it for themselves! They can then share with others the awesome technology your practice provides and the positive experiences they’ve encountered.

Are you ready to stop hand-mixing and taking messy impressions over and over? Incorporating the iTero scanner or something similar is a win for your practice. There are many different brands to choose from with various specifications. I recommend comparing several intraoral scanners to find the one that best fits your practice needs, and then consider using it for even your littlest patients.  


  1. iTero—Visualize a better practice with more choices. Align Technology, Inc.
Adrien Theriot, DDS, MSD, is a board-certified pediatric dentist in Houston, Texas. She received her doctor of dental surgery, master’s degree, and certificate in pediatric dentistry from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Dentistry. You can contact Dr. Theriot at [email protected].
About the Author

Adrien L. Theriot, DDS, MSD

Adrien L. Theriot, DDS, MSD, was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas. She received her bachelor of science at Baylor University and her DDS from the University of Texas School of Dentistry (UTSD). Dr. Theriot has been actively involved in organized dentistry, serving on numerous councils and committees for the American Dental Association (ADA), American Student Dental Association (ASDA), Greater Houston Dental Society, and American Dental Education Association. She was the 2015 vice president for ASDA and served as a voting delegate to the 2015 ADA House of Delegates. Dr. Theriot is currently pursuing a master of science in dentistry and a certificate in pediatric dentistry at UTSD.

Read Dr. Theriot's DE Editorial Advisory Board profile here. 

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