Digital dentistry can involve a steep upfront investment in your practice’s future. Because digital dental practice technology and equipment are relatively new, the initial investment may seem daunting.
A learning curve is involved. You don’t know what you don’t know. Do you remember the first time you took a crown and bridge impression? It became much easier with practice and experience.
With a digital dentistry workflow, you must change your way of thinking and be open to the nuances of efficiently capturing the patient’s anatomy without relying on a physical impression that you can see and hold. That may be something that is holding you back from reaping the benefits of converting to a digital dental practice.
How Can Your Dental Office Incorporate Digital Dentistry?
Really any dental practice where impressions are a routine part of the delivery of services can benefit from going digital: general dentistry, prosthodontics, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry. Digital dentistry streamlines the workflow while greatly reducing remakes. By integrating the dental office with a completely digital lab, it is now possible to produce great-fitting dental appliances without using any of the time-consuming reverse image techniques that were the standard only a few short years ago.
3D printers and milling machines deliver customized prosthetics and dental appliances with superior fit and reproducible results. And, because images can be saved to the cloud, scanned impressions eliminate the need for orthodontists to keep patients’ physical models for many years following treatment in order to satisfy legal requirements. Having digital impressions allows the fabrication of a duplicate denture in a hurry without the patient having to come to the office. A great benefit when someone loses their removable appliance.
In addition to digitally-captured impressions, implant placement and endodontic treatment are being planned via in-office digital Cone Beam Computed Tomography systems. Digital dentistry is also being employed in guided implant placement surgeries where digitally-controlled drilling allows for ideal implant placement, eliminating operator error and reducing implant failures attributed to incorrect angulation.
Finally, we can’t forget where digital dentistry started. In 1982, it became possible to make same-day ceramic crowns using CAD/CAM milling in the office. This was the first successful commercial effort into a digital dentistry workflow for the general practice. From self-contained systems to completely integrated workflows, digital dentistry continues to expand into new territory.
Do Your Research
Many dental supply companies offer the opportunity to try or rent an intraoral scanner before you buy. Because going digital is a collaborative effort, talk to your laboratory. Do they offer a fully integrated digital dentistry workflow? How much experience do the technicians have with CAD/CAM? What scanners communicate best with your lab’s equipment? If your current lab is not up to the task, it is time to explore better alternatives.