Features that Matter, an Intra-Oral Scanner Buyer’s Guide

In preparation for the 2019 Chicago Mid-Winter convention, StraightSmile Solutions® has partnered with Yankee Tech Digital® to develop this list of suggested features to consider when selecting an Intra-Oral Scanner. Please feel free to contact our teams for more information or for support. To schedule a complimentary consultation, please visit www.straightsmilesolutions.com.

1. Price

This can vary from $10000-$40000. The difference could cover a college tuition or a new automobile, so choose wisely. Don’t be sucked into something you don’t need. Also, some labs are willing to subsidize the payment in exchange for work, or you might be able to lease a scanner.

2. Maneuverability

Are you setting up a designated “scan spot” in a single op, or do you need flexibility to seamlessly move the unit from op to op or from office to office? Based on your needs, a decision must be made regarding the correct form factor of the computer system to be used for scanning.

3. Monthly User Fees

Are you prepared for monthly user fees? Some scanners do not include a data fee with purchase, but others include it for a year.

4. Tech Support

If something goes wrong (which it will!), how quickly will the problem be resolved? Is this guaranteed in writing? How quickly do they guarantee you a replacement unit?

5. Weight

This is really important to your staff. How would you feel all day holding a heavy unit? Back and shoulder issues could become a liability for your office’s bottom line. A lot of assistants have small hands, and increased weight can make it harder to steer the wand and difficult to scan posterior distal areas and other sharp angles.

6. Tip Size/Comfort

Are you scanning pedo or geriatric patients? Consider the smallest possible tip for patient comfort.

7. Cross-Arch Accuracy (in microns)

If you are scanning for aligners, be aware that the recommended cross-arch accuracy should be no more than 200 microns. Getting a reliable full-mouth scan has always been an issue for intraoral scanners. Unlike desktop scanners, intraoral scanners have much smaller fields of view, which means a drastic increase in both the number and complexity of image-stitching operations. As you move the scanner head across a surface, individual images are stitched together rapidly to form the final model. With longer scanning areas, the errors ultimately add up, resulting in more and more deformations. This is where cross-arch accuracy comes into play.

8. Replacement Tip Cost

No brainer. You’ll need a lot.

9 Tip Lifespan

Is this guaranteed? How the tips are handled when sanitizing them will impact their lifespan; that’s why it’s critical to make sure that there are no wet spots left behind the tip mirror.

10 Touchscreen Capability

It’s just so cool to have this feature to sell a case. Consider good OSHA practices.

11. File Type

Is STL all you need? Another popular file format is PLY. A PLY file contains more information that an STL file, and it is becoming more popular with CAD/CAM software packages.

12. Mode of Image Capture

Do you want continuous or stable image capture? Continuous image capture systems are video-based. Video-based intraoral scanners are generally faster and easier to upgrade.

13. Use of Powder

More intraoral scanners are coming on the market that do not require powder in order to take impressions. However, there may be instances when powdering may be necessary due to the complexity and situation of the procedure. Too many shiny surfaces can make it difficult for the scanner to define the geometry of the teeth. The good news is that taking an impression for orthodontic treatment is not generally necessary.

14. Open Solution

A no brainer unless you want to be beholden to others: An “open connection” means the laboratory can work with any CAD/CAM system that accepts STL, the standard format. The laboratory can then use its own equipment for 3D printing. Open connections provide the benefits of an integrated system without the drawbacks of a proprietary format.

15. Disposable Tips

Do the math. Does this make sense? At least you don’t have to worry about your staff melting your tips. However, this is not an environmentally friendly option.

16. Manufacturer’s Warranty. Does the manufacture offer an extended warranty? If so, what is covered under the warranty?

17. Multidisciplinary Functionality

What applications do you plan to use the IOS for? Just aligners? Surgical guides? To scan implant abutments? For crowns and bridges? Accuracy is very important with multi-disciplinary functionality.

18. Automatic Bite Alignment Registration

Tools and utilities to edit, enhance, and analyze the captured impressions are very helpful!

Return on Investment

Many dentists struggle to decide whether intraoral scanning technology is worth the price. Although digital scanners currently range from $10,000 to $40,000, this cost can quickly be recovered in reduced overhead and increased practice efficiency. For example, an internal survey by Align Technology® indicated that 36% of dentists had to reappoint at least one patient per month to retake PVS impressions. The cost effectiveness of intraoral digital scanners is demonstrated by a conservative practice model. A busy orthodontic practice with a large volume of clear aligner patients spends $800 per month, or $9,600 per year, on impression materials. Assuming $300 of hourly production, an average 15 minutes of chair time savings computes to $75 of savings per production hour. Further, assuming a conservative estimate of 200 scans per year, the practice can realize $15,000 in production savings. These inventory and chair-time savings total $24,600 in one year—roughly the price of an intraoral scanner. Factoring in the costs for warranty coverage, scanner tips and supplies, and model fees, an intraoral scanner can pay for itself within two years. Clearly, the value of this technology exceeds the initial investment.


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