How to Choose the Right Intraoral Scanner

Choosing an intraoral scanner is like picking out the right pair of running shoes - you look for a pair that matches your style of running and then try them on to see if they're the best fit. It's the same with intraoral scanners - you need to find the best fit and support for your needs. The difference? These 'shoes' can cost up to $50,000.

So, we asked Henry Schein Dental's Product Category Manager for Digital Restorations, Tyler Steck, to walk you through the top 10 considerations when choosing an intraoral scanner.

Research products from all the major manufacturers: How long has each scanner been around? How often does that manufacturer come out with new versions or software updates? What are your peers saying about that scanner or brand? How does their product work with your existing technology? Most importantly, is the product supported? Can you rely on your distributor to stand by the product and offer support, if needed? You want a partner and product that will live up to your standards.

Intraoral scanners have expansive clinical applications, including prosthodontics, implantology, and orthodontics. In prosthodontics, scanners can be used to obtain the virtual models needed to manufacture single crowns, fixed partial dentures, implants, and other restorations. Intraoral scanners are also used in implantology for guided surgery, while Orthodontists can use the scans for diagnosis and treatment planning, including bracket placement and clear aligner application. Scanners can also be used in a general practice setting for monitoring tooth movement, reviewing shade changes (with color scanners), and as a replacement for traditional impression methods.

Though versatile, intraoral scanners have different areas of strength. Prioritize your needs and look for a system that will complement the most vital procedures in your practice, whether that is bridges, crowns, inlays and onlays, veneers, or aligners.

Intraoral scanners can operate within either an open or closed file transfer system. An open system allows files to be easily shared, but this setup can require a greater understanding of software compatibility. With a contained (closed) system the digital workflow is typically pre-configured; outputting files that can only be opened by software from the same manufacturer. Evaluating open vs. closed systems is especially important if you are considering expanding your CAD/CAM technology in the future.

Intraoral scanners vary in price from $10,000 to $50,000. However, there may be financing programs or promotions available with an array of options to consider: monthly financing, special pricing, or bundles with other dental technology and materials. So, don’t just look at upfront cost, consider all the options available to best leverage your budget.

There is a large set of features to consider before purchasing a scanner, including: speed, use of powder, accuracy, and tip size. Some intraoral scanners may be “quicker” but compromise on shade integrity and margin detection.

Total Cost of Ownership.
Certain scanners charge additional fees after the product purchase for scans, warranty, software upgrades or support. Familiarize yourself with the policies of each product prior to purchase to better assess the total cost of ownership.

You want your scanner to be intuitive and easy to use. If your staff finds it cumbersome or confusing, you won’t see the full benefits of digital Impressioning. Be sure to consider form along with function: is the scanner wireless, does it fit your hand, and is the grip comfortable enough for repeated use. Ask your sales representative to demonstrate several intraoral scanners, and make your decision based off hands-on experience.

Calculate your ROI by evaluating your current restoration cases and associated costs. If you have one dentist performing seven crown restorations and one implant restoration a week, your annual savings (including time, materials and reduction in remakes) could amount to $20,000 with the purchase of an intraoral scanner, according to the 3Shape TRIOS ROI Calculator. Digital impressions reduce the need for traditional impression materials and free up staff from having to send impressions to the lab for fabrication.

As with any new process, there is a learning curve to consider. Doctors and dental assistants alike can take digital impressions. As a result, all users must receive training. It’s important to learn what training is included with your purchase, to ensure a knowledgeable trainer will be available to you and your staff. Some distributors offer hands-on, one-on-one training before, during, and post-sale. Expanding into new technology and offering training to your staff can also be a great recruiting and retention tool.

It is key to think long-term when considering what scanner to purchase. Are you looking to grow into a full CAD/CAM system or take digital impressions while maintaining a relationship with your lab? If you want to keep working with your lab, most intraoral scanners integrate seamlessly with lab communication software. However, if you want the possibility of adding single-visit dentistry capabilities to your practice, consider a system that also has design software and a mill.

It’s important to evaluate all the major considerations for you and your practice before deciding on a digital impressioning scanner. Be sure to contact your Henry Schein Dental Sales Representative to schedule a demonstration and to learn more about the different intraoral scanners available through Henry Schein.