Christopher Piehler

I don’t set out to create “theme” issues of the magazine, but sometimes a theme emerges on its own. This issue, for example, features three articles that relate to digital intraoral scanners.

William A. Poss writes, in his article Pixels Instead of Plaster, about how these scanners, when integrated with practice-management software and wired manufacturers, can allow orthodontists to simplify and speed up their appliance-making process. Arlen Hurt, CDT, outlines, in his article The Digital Lab, a number of new uses that orthodontic labs have for digital intraoral scans. Finally, our Product Usage Survey answers some core questions: How many Orthodontic Products readers are using these scanners, what are they using them for, and how many more of you are planning to start using them soon?

So go read all three of these articles. I’ll wait until you’re finished. Finished? Good.

Having digested all of that information, I think we can agree that digital intraoral scanning is at a crossroads. There are currently only two brands of scanner available, and both of these are tied to specific appliance systems (Invisalign and Suresmile). Ormco has a scanner in development, but even so, the field is not crowded.

One result of this minimal competition, according to our survey, is that price is still a barrier to entry for many potential new users. On the other hand, 16% of those who answered our survey said that they plan to start using a digital intraoral scanner within the next year.

The question is, will these scanners become like hybrid cars: more expensive than the “basic” alternative but embraced by the general public for their increased efficiency and convenience? Or will they become like electric cars: full of technological wonder, but kept from widespread adoption by a perceived high price and a lack of infrastructure? Based on the Poss and Hurt articles, I would bet that infrastructure will not be the problem. Companies are lining up to create plasterless workflows.

So do you think a digital intraoral scanner is a worthwhile investment? Call, e-mail, or if you’re in Honolulu, drop by our booth and let me know.