I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz around intraoral scanners from general dentists and orthodontists— computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing, or CAD/CAM, technology is changing dentistry—but how does this cutting-edge technology relate to your practice as an oral surgeon? Let me share with you a few of the ways that I have integrated digital scanning into my practice.
First, a little background: intraoral scanners take the place of conventional or analog impressions. Instead of trays, alginate or polyvinyl and pouring molds, the scanner captures digital images of a patient’s teeth, which are available almost instantly on a computer screen. These image files are then shared with a lab to create models. Also, digital scanners are small and lightweight and the more sophisticated scanners can be simply unplugged from a laptop and taken from operatory to operatory.
One of the best uses for digital impressions is in treatment planning. Since the digital images are available within seconds, it’s simple to show the patient the computer screen and point out issues. When patients can visualize their teeth and clearly see where the problem lies, they’re far more likely to accept treatment.
Basic Surgical Guides
Using a digital scanner to fabricate surgical guides—always recommended when placing implants—accelerates the entire process. First, alginate and polyvinal is not necessary with a scanner, so there is no waiting for a stone model to set. Second, once files are sent to the lab, a virtual tooth can be added to the digital scans and a surgical guide can be milled. The entire process is handled virtually.
With the computer-planning software available today, I’m able to upload both the digital intraoral scans and cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) DICOM files, making planning orthognathic surgical cases on the computer simple. The digitalization of treatment planning also allows for the fabrication of exact provisional and final appliances. Computerized treatment planning minimizes workups, reduces treatment times and maximizes the overall efficacy of the surgery.
Sleep Apnea and Mouth Guards
Sleep apnea is a chronic sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide; treatment often involves an oral appliance. At the same time, properly designed mouthguards are a necessity for dental injury prevention while playing sports. Intraoral scanners can capture the highly accurate 3D impressions needed to design and fabricate oral appliances for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and the custom mouth guards needed for stability, proper fit and ease of breathing during sports.
These are just a few of the way that I’ve found a digital scanner to be a advantage to my practice and the field of oral surgery as a whole. Not only are scanners more convenient than dealing with the “goop” and molds associated with conventional impressions, they streamline the entire process of some of the most important OMS procedures.
Would you incorporate a scanner into your practice? If you’ve already done so, what other ways have you found a scanner to benefit OMS?