A Digital 'Magic Wand' Makes Going to the Dentist a More Comfortable Experience
Almost everyone is familiar with the awkward and uncomfortable goop-filled plastic tray that is inserted into the mouth and used for taking impressions of the teeth and gums.
Thankfully, now there is an alternative, called the iTero digital impression system.
What is iTero?
The iTero system takes 3-D digital impressions of patients' teeth and gums quickly and comfortably, with 99.5% accuracy. From these state-of-the-art digital impressions, dentists and orthodontists can determine what restorative treatment is needed. The technology is most often used for crowns, veneers, bridges, implants and other types of restorative dentistry and for orthodontic appliances like retainers and Invisalign, a type of braces treatment.
With this technology, patients benefit from a more comfortable, more efficient experience in the dentist's chair. Dental professionals get the benefit of improved accuracy and an easier, speedier procedure.
How it Works
The 'Magic Wand'
Instead of the dreaded plastic tray, the iTero wand is placed into the patient's mouth to capture images of each tooth. The wand has a highly sensitive optical camera that uses flashes of light to snap 3-D images, a process that only takes minutes.
The 3-D Model
As soon as the images are captured, the computer builds a full 3-D model of the teeth, gums and palate from the scanned images. The patient and doctor can discuss treatment options right away. If Invisalign is being discussed, the patient can even see what their teeth could look like after treatment is complete.
Sending the Images
If treatment such as a crown or bridge is needed, the dentist simply presses the "send" button to deliver the 3-D image to the fabrication facility where the appliance is created.
Why are Dentists and Orthodontists Using iTero?
Improved Patient Comfort
This is probably the biggest benefit of the iTero technology. No x-ray exposure, no uncomfortable goopy tray (which can trigger the gag reflex), no choking or discomfort. Patients can breathe easily and approach the procedure with less anxiety, knowing their visit to the dentist is going to be a comfortable one.
Better Accuracy, on the First Try
With the old way of obtaining dental x-rays, patients were often subjected to a trial-and-error method; the dentist would take a mold of the patient's teeth (using the 'goop' and plastic tray), wait for the mold to set and wait until the next appointment to see if it was an accurate mold. With the iTero technology, the scans are 99.5% accurate and the dentist can view the 'virtual mold' right away. This means patients only need to have one appointment to get the impressions.
Less Time at the Dentist
Because the scans from iTero are a 'good mold' on the first try, patients are spending less time at the dentist. Return appointments for fittings and remakes are not needed and total time in the dentist's chair is reduced by 22%.
Faster Delivery Times
The iTero technology speeds up Invisalign production time, so patients can get their braces in three weeks (instead of six).
There is a huge benefit to being able to discuss treatment onscreen with patients right in the chair. Open communication between dentists and orthodontists and patients helps to relieve patient anxiety and gives patients an overall better experience.
Tried and True
Dentists have been using iTero for dental impressions since 2007, with more than 2 million dental restorations completed. It's been proven to be safe, accurate and effective with both restorative treatment and orthodontic treatment.
Is the Investment Worthwhile for Dentists?
This article would be incomplete without mention of a disadvantage of the iTero system - its cost. For dentists and orthodontists, the initial investment can run steep - up to $30,000 for the scanner.
While this seems like a hefty price tag, obtaining impressions with iTero vs. conventional impressions allows for more efficiency and therefore gives dental practices more time. More time means more appointments, which increases production and revenue. Many dentists and orthodontists can expect to receive a return on investment within a year.
Is your dentist using these new technologies? Or are you still getting 'the goop'? Let us know in the comments.
About the Author
Natalie McCatty is a professional writer for Affiliated Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, located in the Phoenix metro area. She writes to inform readers about preventative care and treatment for optimum oral health for their entire family. Read more on APDO's blog.