The technology race continues in orthodontics. Next up: intraoral scanning technology and online order entry for custom-fabricated appliances. Orthodontists are no longer using scans only for aligner and indirect bonding applications, but for virtually any custom-fabricated metal or acrylic appliance. As with most digital tools, it doesn’t come without a willingness to accept change in the daily operations of your practice, but intraoral scanner technology can significantly change the way you practice and can alter your workflow.

Types of Scanners and Scans

There are inherent challenges in 3D intraoral scanning systems. The first lies in the quality or accuracy of the scan. The quantity of data captured directly correlates to scanner technology and the time spent in scanning. It’s quality versus speed.

To understand your options, you must first have a basic understanding of how scanning works. There is a significant difference in the fundamental technology used in various scanners. The Align iTero System is a true intraoral scanner that captures a series of images, like snapshots, as a wand moves over the anatomy. The wand captures data from multiple perspectives and angles, with varying light and reflective values of the anatomy. Line-of-sight issues and, in some cases, reflections from wet or metal surfaces can create voids or holes in the data. The system’s software executes an algorithm to make "calculated judgments" when it has questions as to what is being scanned. That is why you can move the wand at different angles and at varied distances from the surface and still capture data. Recommended scanning techniques include "rocking" the wand to ensure maximum data capture.

When reviewing the completed scan, the orthodontist has the option to add data to the scan or to allow the system to use algorithms to fill the "data holes" with calculated or simulated anatomy to complete a final scan. A scan of the interproximal areas must be of the highest quality to accommodate appliances such as aligners and custom-fabricated bracket systems. A lower-resolution scan may be adequate to fabricate metal and acrylic lab appliances, as well as for patient presentations and clinical review.

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