A female dental professional using an intraoral scanner to take a digital impression of a patient's mouth

Maximize Your Intraoral Scanner’s Potential With These 5 Key Tips

So, you’re considering buying, or  already bought, an intraoral scanner for your practice. Now, you need to figure out how to get the highest return on your investment.

These amazing marvels can help free up your time, give you immediate feedback, and increase your patient’s satisfaction – but like all things, there’s a few tricks to getting the most from the device.

Choosing the right dental lab and having the best intraoral scan possible can make all the difference in providing top-quality dental care for your patients.

That said, dentists commonly face challenges obtaining high-quality scans. And, unfortunately, poor scans can lead to improper treatment plans, ill-fitting dental appliances, and even patient discomfort.

In this article, we’ll discuss five tips to help you overcome some of these challenges and get better intraoral scan impressions of your patients.

However, sometimes obtaining those high-quality scans can pose a challenge And, unfortunately, poor scans can lead to improper treatment plans, ill-fitting dental appliances, and even patient discomfort.

1. Consider onboarding and support When choosing your Intraoral scanner

First and foremost, there’s simply no substitute for quality.

The top three most popular scanners, Trios by 3Shape, Primescan by Dentsply Sirona, and the iTero, will immediately position you for success. In addition to providing quality machines, these companies also offer training and onboarding, ongoing tech support, integrated web portals for lab submission, and widespread usage in the dental world.

When buying any high-tech equipment for your dental office, you need to consider not only the equipment, but also the onboarding and support from the manufacturer and reseller.

In order to have the greatest opportunity for success, you want to integrate your scanner and train your staff as quickly as possible.

When it comes to ongoing support, the fact is that at some point, you’ll probably run into issues you need help solving. When you do, you should feel confident of a fast resolution to any problem that arises. Selecting the right scanner and reseller addresses these needs.

Keep in mind that each scanner uses different steps for submitting your scans to your lab for fabrication. The scanners that use a portal integrated within their workflow make this a simple process you can hand off to a team member once you perform a final review of the scans.

2. Continue Training & Practice to Maximize your Intraoral scanner investment

Initial and ongoing training remains a key component of successful intraoral scans.

You shouldn’t expect yourself and your staff to learn and feel comfortable with scanning after one training session, which is often all that is included with a new scanner.

While initial training should be enough to get you up and running, to get the most out of your IOS system, practice is key. Especially in the beginning, you should practice scanning staff members in the office.

Then, when it comes time to scan a live patient, choose your patient wisely. Don’t pick your high-maintenance patient. Select the laid-back one to whom you can explain what you’re doing, that you’re new to this, and that it might take a couple attempts to get this right.

After building your experience and your comfort level, invest in more training for you and your staff. Without continued learning, maximizing your intraoral scanner investment becomes far more difficult.

Expand the usage of your scanner by learning how to scan a construction bite for a nightguard, a scan body for an implant, or the reference denture technique for digital dentures. Understanding the types of scans your lab needs for various products will yield you a greater return on your scanner investment.

With the more popular scanners many social media communities exist which offer suggestions, advice, and best practices. These provide amazing resources for troubleshooting, as well as learning new techniques and ways to deploy your scanner.

3. Tissue and fluid management

For scans of crown preps, tissue and fluid management is critical.

Scanners don’t like anything shiny, so having a dry field with the tissue retracted from the margin is paramount to your success.

The same care and time that goes into prepping the tooth and for taking a physical impression still needs to go into an intraoral scan. Packing cord and using retraction paste are two of the ways you can get a better look at your margins.

Today’s intraoral scanners are line-of-sight cameras. They don’t see through tissue and blood, so if you can’t see the margin with your eyes, the scanner won’t pick it up either.

Using air and cotton rolls to keep the field dry will also help ensure the scanner will capture the most detail. As time goes on, you’ll learn what tissue and blood looks like on your screen, helping you identify a good or bad scan very quickly.

4. Practice Proper Intraoral Scanning Technique

There’s no denying that intraoral scanners are highly accurate. In fact, in one recent study, IOS systems were found to be accurate to 5 microns while models from physical impressions were accurate to only 150 microns.

But, to benefit from this precision, you need to use the proper scanning strategy.

Each scanner company has a different recommended scan path for scanning different types of cases.

The reason it’s so important is that each scanner’s software is different in how it ‘stiches’ images together for the final result.

So, if the scanner recommends scanning the lingual, then occlusal , then buccal on a lower full arch scan, follow that path. This will result in the most accurate scan with the least distortion.

Digital impressions - dental impression scanner
Related: 10 Questions to Consider Before Purchasing a Digital Impression System
(click image to learn more)

5. Use the Proper Scan Path

This is probably the most important step of the scanning process. Once the scan is complete, go back and take a good look at your scan.

Check that your margins are clearly revealed. If you aren’t sure where the margin is on the screen, your lab isn’t going to know either.

All scanners allow you to mark your margin. If you can’t mark a smooth continuous line around the prep following the margin, your lab won’t be able to, either.

Check the bite registration. Look for areas that are open or heavy that shouldn’t be.

Know how to see if your scans penetrate each other, meaning the occlusion is not correct. Most scanners will give you an occlusal clearance measurement over a prep. Learn how to use this, so your lab doesn’t call you later and ask if they can reduce the prep or the opposing.

Your IOS system allows for instant feedback at a detail level you could never see in a physical impression. You can review a prep at a magnification never before possible in the office.

If you take advantage of this review step, your scanner increases its value by saving your chairtime and increasing patient satisfaction.

Bringing It Together

Like anything else, better intraoral scan impressions become easier through repetition and practice. But, by implementing these five tips, you can improve your intraoral scan impressions more easily and quickly.

You’ll minimize frustration for both yourself and your patients, as well as elevate your standard of care.

The sooner you start incorporating these simple strategies into your everyday practice, the sooner your patients will thank you for it.

And, of course, if you ever have questions about intraoral scanners, techniques, or how to proceed with your digital cases, at First Choice Dental Lab, we’re happy to help.

We’re familiar with many intraoral scanner systems on the market, and even offer a scanner leasing program designed to fit any budget, so you can elevate you Look for future blogs that dive deeper into each one of these topics.

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About First Choice Dental Lab

First Choice Dental Lab is a full-service dental lab with locations in Downers Grove, Il. & Wauwatosa, Wi.

We manufacture & customize quality dental restorations for general dentists. We create smiles based on your needs and budget.

We’re here to help you give your patients a reason to smile!

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