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Pearls for Your Practice: iTero TimeLapse by Align Technology

Aug. 18, 2022
Learn why Dr. Joshua Austin calls TimeLapse "an absolute revelation for diagnosis and treatment planning."

From our patient management software system to our clinical charting, almost everything we do in dentistry is touched by digital technology. With the introduction of digital impression scanners, we brought digital to our chairside procedures. Many people still look at scanners as impression machines, but those days are gone—these machines do so much more. Especially the iTero line of scanners. One of my favorite, most used, and most important features of the iTero is an absolute revelation for diagnosis and treatment planning: TimeLapse.

TimeLapse technology is a massive feature of the iTero digital ecosystem. TimeLapse allows us to do comparative analysis on the same patient over time in ways we could never have comprehended in the past. Imagine one of the many wear patients you see in your practice. Odds are you have a bunch. In the past, how could we track that wear over time? We really couldn’t do it. We could take photographs and estimate, but we couldn’t make quantitative measurements of wear. With TimeLapse, we finally can!

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The process is simple and fast. When you have two different iTero scans done on the same patient over time, those two scans can be compared digitally using TimeLapse. Select the two different scans on the “patient” screen of your iTero. The iTero will then download those scans and analyze them. The whole process takes maybe two minutes, depending on your internet connection. What you will then see looks just like a normal scan. However, you will see a map of changes with different colors based on the severity of change. TimeLapse can show changes as little .05 mm. Changes at that level will be shown in yellow; as change progresses, the colors darken all the way to dark red. I like this schema, as patients are concerned when they see red, as am I! This is a great communication tool for difficult discussions with our patients. It helps us and them visualize the change, and the colors just help convey severity quickly and easily.

Adult patients with wear and recession in my practice get iTero scans yearly in which we do TimeLapse. What we have found is that patients are incredibly moved by the visualization that TimeLapse provides. It motivates them to have treatment done on these “red” issues. The great thing for our practices is that, typically speaking, wear cases require comprehensive treatment plans, which means they are high-value cases. This is not technology to help you do more MOD composites; this technology helps you do more comprehensive cases, such as full-arch dentistry, which we all want to do. TimeLapse gives me the ability to communicate with these patients like nothing else before.

About the Author

Joshua Austin, DDS, MAGD

Joshua Austin, DDS, MAGD, is a graduate and former faculty member of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Dentistry. Author of Dental Economics’ Pearls for Your Practice column, Dr. Austin lectures nationally on products, dental technology, online reputation management, and social media. He maintains a full-time restorative dentistry private practice in San Antonio, Texas. You may contact Dr. Austin at [email protected].

Updated June 21, 2023

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