Investing in Digital Impression Technology for Your Orthodontic Practice

You’ve probably heard that computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) is rapidly advancing in the field of orthodontics. The most valuable CAD/CAM tool that an orthodontist could introduce to their practice is an intraoral scanner: but is it worth it? There is no doubt numerous benefits to both the doctor and patient, but let’s talk hard numbers and the all-important return on investment of such a purchase.

Impression Materials

First, consider how much you’re currently paying for traditional polyvinylsiloxane (PVS) impressions. When you compare the costs over an extended period of time by amortizing the investment in the scanner, the ROI is impressive: Let’s look at the numbers, below:

  • Traditional Impression:
    • 600 starts+600 finishes/ yr.=1,200 PVS impressions
    • 1,200 impressions x $25/set in PVS impression costs
    • ≈$30,000 in impression materials/yr.
  • Digital Impressions with an Intraoral Scanner
    • Cost of Scanner=$450/mo. @ 4% for 60 mos.=$5,400/year for 5 years
    • $5,400/year+$50/mo. for new tips
    • =$6,000/year (one fifth of what conventional PVS impressions cost)

Also, consider that, after the fifth year of payments for the scanner, the only cost is for new tips.

Reduce Remakes

How many times have you had to call a patient back in to the office for a remake because an area has been missed when taking a traditional PVS impression? It’s more than an awkward phone call with the patient; for an assistant to remake a PVS impression, the cost in time and expense is actually three-fold. Consider:

  1. That first impression is lost, costing both time and money;
  2. The remake costs time and expense; and,
  3. An assistant is not available for a new patient and/or procedure while attending to the

However, with an intraoral scanner, a unique light guidance system aids in the capture of the data during the image acquisition process, and modeling software reveals immediately if an area has been missed—simply rescan the area on the spot.

Save on Shipping

Finally, think about how much you spend on carefully packaging and shipping stone models to a lab for the fabrication of orthodontic appliances. These two expenses can be immediately eliminated when sending digital files created by an intraoral scanner to one of hundreds of preferred labs across the country.

How much are you spending on traditional impression materials, remakes and shipping? How much could you save with an intraoral scanner?



Author: Dr. Robert L. Waugh, DMD

Dr. Robert Waugh has practiced orthodontics full time in Athens, Georgia since 1989 and is also an Assistant Professor at Georgia Health Sciences University (USA) College of Dental Medicine's Orthodontic Residency program. Dr. Waugh's interests include using new technologies that help deliver better care for his patients. In 2008 he merged three offices into one facility of 24 chairs that allows him to deliver care using a wide variety of advanced modalities in hygiene, patient scheduling, treatment delivery, and more. Dr. Waugh graduated from Georgia Health Sciences University College of Dental Medicine in 1987 with both a DMD and a Masters in Oral Biology and was elected to OKU, dentistry's honor society. He earned his orthodontic certification and a second Masters degree at Baylor University in 1989. In 2000 he was board-certified by the American Board of Orthodontics. Dr. Waugh has served as President of the Georgia Association of Orthodontists and is a member of the International and American Colleges of Dentists.