Why it makes sense now to switch from traditional impressions to digital impressions

Aug. 26, 2015
Anyone practicing dentistry today has to be wondering about when to make the transition to digital impressions.

Gary Kaye, DDS, FAGD

Anyone practicing dentistry today has to be wondering about when to make the transition to digital impressions. We see a multitude of articles and case studies in the journals about intraoral scanning. Just walk the floor at any of our meetings and wherever you look, there is a company demonstrating an intraoral scanner. The way we send our cases to the lab is changing from sending a physical impression of the patient's dentition to a digital file that is obtained by using one of these intraoral scanners.

In our office, we had been delivering one-appointment CAD/CAM restorations successfully for quite some time. One thing we noted time and time again was how few adjustments our all-digital restorations required. However, our practice continued to use physical impressions for anything requiring the services of a lab. But when we began using an intraoral scanner for most of our lab cases, that was when we took full advantage of the technology. Eliminating all of the physical variables in impression taking and model fabrication has many benefits. I believe that it makes sense to consider switching over from traditional to digital impressions!

The train has left the station

Multiple manufacturers are competing intensely to innovate in this area. They are adding many new features, improving accuracy, and making the scanners easier to use. The images are clearer, faster to capture, and can be easily shared with the lab. The scanners have become more affordable, which makes it easier to justify adding the technology.

The intraoral scaner market is expected to double or triple in the next couple of years as dentists become more open to new and evolving technology. An increased number of scanning solutions in the marketplace is in itself driving the adoption rate. Moreover, our patients have increased access to information, which is driving their preferences for digital.

Benefits are getting bigger and better

There are so many benefits from digitization, and they keep expanding. Improving workflows, increased productivity, and more flexibility are just a few of these benefits. Digitization is helping deliver higher quality dentistry more efficiently by enhancing the functional and esthetic results in the final restoration. This technology allows for the delegation of functions with the team, which improves productivity and hence profitability. The team's engagement is elevated by being actively involved in patient care. This, in turn, leads to delighted patients and differentiates the practice in today's world.

Adopting this technology takes the lab partnership to another level. The ability to get instant feedback from the lab while the patient is in the chair and getting the feedback from the dentist while the restorations are being designed is invaluable. The technology is continually improving, so being involved helps a dentist take full advantage as new breakthroughs come to the market. It's just like a person needing a smartphone to take advantage of the latest apps.

We are getting a better understanding of the adoption and integration steps

As we as professionals go through the process of adopting new technology, we actually become better at it. It does not happen overnight, and it requires a disciplined set of practices and principles both clinically and operationally to maximize the benefits and realize the results. We have found that how we approach the first 100 days of adopting a new process or procedure can have a profound effect on how successful we are at it. Over the years, my practice has developed a 100-day action plan that helps us make sure we keep on track as we introduce any new process into our workflows.

The New York Center for Digital Dentistry is currently piloting a tailor-made 100-day Adoption/Integration Program to help practices adopt restorative digital technology in their offices. The program is a team-oriented, 100-day roadmap to facilitate the successful adoption and integration of CAD/CAM and intraoral scanning technologies with the goal of delivering an exceptional customer experience. I will share the results in this column when we complete the study.

It makes dentistry fun!

The practice of dentistry, while rewarding, can sometimes be stressful for both patient and dentist. Eliminating the physical impression takes a lot of that stress away. Our patients' reaction to a 3-D computer image of their mouth is so much more positive than something gooey with bite marks in it and dripping with saliva. The only thing they liked about that was that we took it out of their mouth before they choked on it! Yes, I think the time is right to switch to digital intraoral scanning!

Gary Kaye, DDS, FAGD, founder of the New York Center for Digital Dentistry, has practiced comprehensive dentistry in New York City since 1993. He graduated from Columbia University of Dental Medicine in 1993 where he received awards in endodontics, prosthodontics, and geriatric dentistry. Dr. Kaye consults with other dentists and dental manufacturers and lectures on topics including ceramics, occlusion, and digital dentistry. He is on the guest faculty of Planmeca University in Dallas, Texas.

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