How to start your dental digital journey

If you’re actively looking for a good place to start with digital, the unquestionable benefits of an intraoral scanner can no longer be ignored, says Jason Longden of Henry Schein Connect Dental


Nobody would blame you if, on reading yet another article about digital dentistry, you roll your eyes and move swiftly on. It’s been the hottest topic in dentistry for the last couple of years and there have been many thousands of words written about the benefits that adopting digital technology can bring to a practice.

So, whilst some practitioners have embraced the concept, some have understandably been a little daunted. To gain some perspective on the topic, it can be helpful to put the label ‘digital’ aside for a moment and consider some of the new technology available as just that: adapted technology that has been designed to help dentists provide improved treatment outcomes for their patients. Intraoral scanners in particular can be viewed in this way. Offering numerous patient benefits, these scanners are increasingly considered as standalone pieces of equipment that are an ideal first-step into digitisation, easily integrating with existing non-digital equipment for a realistic investment.


Accurate and precise scanning

Intraoral scanning has developed enormously over the past few years and now the accuracy and speed of today’s scanners provides a tenable alternative to conventional impression-taking. Full oral scans can be taken in a matter of minutes and are immediately viewable on a chairside screen, in an open format that’s ready to be sent electronically to the laboratory of your choice. Some scanners also capture images in full-colour 3D video, making it easy to differentiate between different materials and bringing treatment to life for the patient.


Compatible with existing equipment

Some practitioners worry that digitisation has to be an all-or nothing decision but this simply isn’t the case. An intraoral scanner is a sensible choice for those wanting to dip their toe in the digital world, as this equipment can be quickly and easily integrated into an otherwise analogue workflow. Recent developments have accepted that a busy dental practice does not necessarily have the time, budget or head-space to replace their full treatment system in one dramatic overhaul, and those who’ve had a long-standing relationship with a trusted laboratory often want to continue working in this way. For this reason, more and more scanners now output their files in an open .stl format, which is compatible with all types of in-lab software.


Fast and comfortable

There’s no point having an intraoral scanner if it’s too cumbersome or too big to reach hard-to-access areas of the mouth. So, choose a scanner that has a handpiece that is slim-line, lightweight and has good handling. The best examples are comfortable to hold and have small camera heads, make scanning easy and fast, as well as comfortable and mess-free for the patient.



There are of course, plenty of extras you can add to a basic scanner, such as wireless technology, a stop-start function and 3D video, all of which really enhance the process of obtaining fast, accurate scans. And, if a little further down the line you are enjoying all the benefits an intraoral scanner brings, you decide that single-visit dentistry would be beneficial to your practice, your original investment will still have been a cost-effective first step, which makes it easy to upgrade to a full chairside system by adding a compatible in-surgery milling unit.


Education and support

The benefits of digital dentistry are clear and are now well understood in the market, but my advice is always to seek advice from the experts. Henry Schein Connect Dental has access to some of the market’s leading manufacturers and technology providers and we are ready to offer help and support as required. Henry Schein Connect Digital Discovery Days are one way of finding out what the options are and offer an excellent opportunity to learn about the latest digital equipment from those using it every day in practice. Or alternatively, Henry Schein Go Digital Evenings provide the opportunity to learn about the fundamentals of digital technology, including digital solutions for restorations, implant dentistry and orthodontics, from renowned digital exponents, Simon Chard, Alif Moosajee and Simon Ernst.


Is an intraoral scanner right for me? Solution
Costly monthly fees Some do have ongoing monthly fees but some don’t have any. Shop around to find the right one.
It won’t integrate with my existing equipment or my lab Many intraoral scanners have open systems that allow you to share the files it creates easily with other equipment and with the lab of your choice.
They work as a truly standalone product. If I do decide to upgrade to a full chairside system, this will have been a waste of money. Manufacturers have been working to make it as easy as possible to upgrade to full chairside systems so that practices can adopt digital dentistry at their own pace.
Digital technology is not all it claims to be. There were some teething problems with early digital dental technology, but the quality and accuracy now available is undeniable.




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