During the last decade, orthodontics has embraced many new forms of technology. A few examples include treatment-planning software linked to robotic archwire formation (Orametrix®), 3D radiography and intraoral scanning (i-CAT® and Cadent™ iTero™), computerized aligner manufacturing (Invisalign®), and computer-assisted bracket placement (the OrthoCAD iQ™ system). In a relatively short time, these systems have gained widespread acceptance in many practices. Specialty Appliances has welcomed several new technologies, including 3D impression and model scanning, computerized appliance design, and 3D resin deposition model printing. As a result, we are improving appliance quality and driving overall process improvement. In this article, I will present a few of the technology-driven changes we’re making in appliance fabrication as we transition into the digital manufacturing world.

High Tech, High Price?

With the tremendous advances in technology all around us, it’s easy to initially embrace the concept of "high tech" in the orthodontic practice and in the laboratory. The return on investment for these new technologies needs to be considered, but can be difficult to judge, especially in the early stages of adoption. A good example is the impact of new 3D intraoral scanners on the practice and laboratory. For the practice, there is the obvious benefit of replacing traditional impressions with an intraoral scan. This promises a vastly improved patient experience, as well as a more accurate capture of the teeth and supporting structures. In the laboratory, we now have an extremely accurate starting record which reduces the potential for remakes. However, these benefits come with a price. Considering the initial investment for the intraoral scanner, the per-scan user fee, and the cost of printing physical models from the scan, the added estimated cost ranges from $50 to $75 per patient. Each practice will have to evaluate this cost/benefit relationship to determine when it makes sense to adopt these systems.

To read the rest of this article from the April/May issue of Orthodontic Products, click here.