At 3Shape, I work closely with dentists all the time. In my previous role as application specialist, I was responsible for in-clinic training and the teaching of 3Shape Academy courses. Now as a Clinical Product Manager for 3Shape TRIOS, I focus more on research and development, and work very closely with TRIOS beta testers. I am also a dentist.
After working with so many clinicians I’ve seen a pattern develop on why they’ve chosen not to use an intraoral scanner. The pattern is similar for both professionals that have tried scanners and those that are completely new to the technology. They know scanners exist, but they remain reluctant
In this blog post, I’ll address the five main reasons doctors give me for not buying an intraoral scanner and hopefully, provide a counter argument to why they or you should reconsider.
The biggest thing holding doctors back is that they have established a longtime relationship with a lab that is not digital. The lab and the doctor have a workflow that works. So as a dentist, they are used to a certain workflow, a workflow that generally provides excellent results. Their crowns and bridges are delivered on time without using any digital technology. They usually fit and they are used to that routine.
A doctor in this scenario may even recognize that going digital would be a better and more cost-effective solution. But still, because of their long-term relation with a certain dental lab that hasn’t embraced the digital age, it makes the dentist reluctant to want to change things.
The doctor is not ready to switch labs and does not want to try to get his or her lab to change to digital either. So, while they may realize that it would be much more convenient to send digital scans, it would mean working with a new lab.
Obviously in this case, the dentist understands the benefits of going digital but the hassle of finding a new lab or trying to get their lab to go digital outweighs the advantages.
I can sympathize with both the dentist and the lab, but the problem is everyone else is going digital. They are at risk of being left behind. You can find hundreds of articles online with dentists claiming that using an intraoral scanner drives word of mouth marketing for their practice and patient satisfaction.
This is not even considering the benefits to their dentistry and workflows.
As for the lab, dental labs have traditionally been the first movers when it comes to going digital. Any lab now that is still analog is really risking their future. As well as the opportunity to optimize their design and production workflows and add new services for their clinic customers by becoming a digital dental lab.
When making a large investment on, for example, an intraoral scanner, doctors, like anyone else, should be understandably cautious.
And while tax laws may vary from country to country, an intraoral scanner should be considered an investment. And the doctor should carefully weigh the return on that investment before making any purchase commitment.
One thing in common with every practitioner that I have met is a sincere interest in having equipment that will help them enhance their treatment for patients.
So, when it comes to buying an intraoral scanner, I would think that it should be a question of balancing their patient treatment versus the cost of the scanner.
To make it easier or harder to choose - depending how you look at it - there are many scanner models out there. Doctors should review features, price, accompanying software, and compare these to determine their ROI.
We have been fortunate to have a doctor do exactly that. He has shared his formular for evaluating which intraoral scanner to buy.
That same USA doctor, Dr. Mark McOmie, also happened to have come up with my all-time favorite quote on ROI: “if you want to know how to send your kids to college, buy a 3Shape TRIOS intraoral scanner.”
3Shape also has an ROI calculator available on its website. With it, you can enter your amounts of cases, treatment fees, costs… and calculate the ROI on your intraoral scanner purchase.
When intraoral scanners were originally introduced, they were deemed a replacement for conventional impressions. A way to let your patients off the hook for gag-inducing conventional impressions and electronically send a digital impression to one of the many labs who were at the time, switching to CAD/CAM design.
While this is still very valid and terrific reason to go digital, times have changed. Some years back, 3Shape began introducing new applications to what you could do with your digital impressions even before you ever sent them to the lab.
From patient monitoring to treatment simulations and smile design, 3Shape turned the intraoral scanner into much more than just a digital impression solution. Nowadays, basically every brand has copied and renamed in one way or another every one of 3Shape’s groundbreaking applications. So, when it comes time to choosing a scanner, it’s made your decision even murkier.
For doctors unfamiliar with intraoral scanners, many still do not fully understand that you can now do so much more with an intraoral scanner. They still think that it is just a replacement for PVS impression material.
But again, with a scanner, like TRIOS, when you take a digital impression, you now have inhouse production capabilities, with CAD/CAM technology like Implant Studio, Clear Aligner Studio and as mentioned, the patient engagement apps like the Smile Design, Patient Monitoring and Treatment Simulator. Similarly, in 3Shape’s case, your scanner also includes the 3Shape Unite platform, which connects practices to thousands of labs and treatment solution providers.
Non-IOS users need to be exposed to digitalization or the complete world of scanning. I would recommend that they go to a class or visit a colleague who is using a scanner.
There is a lot of differentiation within dentistry. It is not just about general dentistry. We have orthodontics, prosthodontics, oral surgery and more. And some specialists, like Endodontists or Periodontists, really do not have a need for a scanner. And while scanner makers look to develop applications for these specialties, the results may be a few years away.
For general dentists who are interested in scanners, the question is where to begin. There are so many brands available that it makes the decision difficult.
In addition, they may even have peer pressure on them to purchase a scanner. That pressure combined with the large selection of scanners makes the decision process more difficult.
If they are not connected with anyone digital, they do not even know where to get started or who to speak with around digital dental technology or workflows.
I would recommend that doctors be certain that they understand what they can do with the scanner. Then they can begin with easier workflows, scanning and digital workflows and move on from there.
Again, speaking with colleagues is always a great idea. In addition, the Institute of Digital Dentistry provides unbiased reviews of scanner brands. They are a good resource for everything digital in dentistry. Their review of 3Shape TRIOS 4 for example says ‘a truly impressive high-speed scanner that builds on the success of the TRIOS 3, while also bringing many new functions to the table’.
Many times, I see resellers wanting to add solutions like scan bodies etc. to a dentist’s intraoral scanner purchase. This can confuse a customer who is just getting into digital dentistry and might not have ambitions on doing dental implants digitally just yet.
Dentists who are buying an intraoral scanner for the first time are on a digital journey. If a reseller brings in more equipment, the dentist must also begin thinking about printing, milling, or implants, when initially, they just wanted to start working with digital impressions. It could also raise the price on an already expensive intraoral scanner.
So, while the practitioner is still needing to better understand what a scanner can do, it can become confusing when even more technology is added into the equation.
Non-digital dentists are comfortable with conventional workflows. And they may even be scared to buy an expensive piece of equipment. I know plenty of doctors that have been hesitant because they are afraid that someone in their practice might drop or break it. It can be expensive to fix an intraoral scanner.
My recommendation to dentists is to start small. Get comfortable with scan and send workflows before adding tougher indications, more complex workflows, and more equipment.
In addition, I would recommend some type of scan breakage insurance to help you sleep better at night. 3Shape TRIOS Care for example, is a paid service agreement that provides complete peace-of-mind assurance including express replacement in case of damage.