I have had the opportunity over the last decade and a half to work on many of the intra-oral impression scanning systems currently on the market. Playing with new technology, however, is different than using it day to day. One of the most common questions I have been asked over the years is, are you utilizing digital impressions in your office? The answer today is yes, and it took me quite some time to make that choice. So What tipped the scales?
Today a large number of the lab processes that were once done by hand are digital, one easy example of that is zirconia, which can only be milled. When sending the lab a physical impression the data has to be digitized in order to be used in these digital workflows. The lab will scan your impression, or pour a model to scan. This step of getting digital data from a physical impression introduces some inaccuracy. The movement of the lab industry firmly in the direction of digital was a major motivator. If the lab process requires digital data, and more and more of them do, why not send digital data, versus having the lab scan your impression?
Another piece of the equation for me is marketing my practice and being perceived well by my patients. More and more I was finding patients ask me about digital technology. They often have a friend or family member who had a digital impression “instead of the goo”, and they are curious if we use that. More and more I found myself trying to explain to patients why we didn’t have the technology, even though we have many other tech advances in our office. Hearing myself I realized I needed to look at this decision seriously.
Several advances in digital impression systems finally tipped the scales for me. One of the important features is “open source”. This means that the data produced can be used across different technologies produced by different manufacturers. I didn’t want to be forced to use specific labs, or specific milling centers based on their ability to use my data. Another big advance in recent years that drove this decision was the rapid advance of printers and milling units that can be used in our office. We can now choose to simply scan and outsource everything to the lab, or pick and choose what other companion technology we want to have in house.
The last piece of the puzzle dropped into place when I got to see the Emerald scanner from Planmeca. Featuring their Romexis software which I had admired for years, the scanner connects to a computer through a USB port. So instead of a large computer, screen and scanner that has to be wheeled around the office I could have a scanner connected to a laptop that can easily be moved from op to op. All of these factors combined tipped the scales in favor of intra-oral scanning.