Getting dental impressions the traditional way is slow and unpleasant for both the patient and the dentist. But thanks to intraoral 3D scanning, the days of biting down on an icky goo-covered tray are over.

An intraoral 3D scanner — like the 3DISC Heron IOS — is a type of lightweight, handheld dental 3D scanner. With it, dentists can quickly and effortlessly capture direct optical dental impressions in the form of an accurate 3D model.

Not only is intraoral dental 3D scanning faster and safer than the traditional impression trays, it also opens new possibilities for treating patients. The detailed 3D models enable dentists to create perfectly fitting dentures and implants, make accurate surgical plans, design new tools, and more.

Let’s take a look at how dental 3D scanners work and what sets intraoral 3D scanning apart from the other technologies. We’ll also explore the benefits and applications of intraoral scanners.

How Do Dental 3D Scanners Work?

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Dentists’ offices and dental laboratories are rapidly incorporating more and more digital solutions into their practices. These solutions include dental 3D printing, digital patient data archiving, and dental 3D scanners.

There are multiple dental 3D scanning technologies available to dental practices. The three most common include:

Each of these technologies achieves the same basic goal — they help dentists scan and digitize a patient’s jaws and teeth into an accurate 3D model. But the technologies have functional differences that can affect their applicability.

Cone-bean computed tomography (CBCT) is a form of CT scan technology. CBCT machines use X-rays to capture a series of images and combine them into a 3D model. The patient holds their head in place while the CBCT scanner’s imaging systems rotate around their head.

Although CBCT is safer than regular CT scans, it still exposes the patient to some radiation. The whole imaging process takes around 20 minutes, which can be uncomfortable for the patient.

Dental lab scanners are essentially desktop-sized 3D scanners that use light and cameras to scan a physical object into a 3D model. These machines are good for scanning tools and existing dental designs, but they require you to have a physical object. As such, they can’t replace dental mould impressions.

Intraoral scannerscommonly come in the form of a small wand that’s inserted into the patient’s mouth. This way they resemble many other dental tools. At the tip of the scanner is a light-equipped camera that scans the patient’s teeth and mouth into a 3D model.

Intraoral 3D scanners are often one of the easier and more affordable options for dental 3D scanning. Although the initial investment is not insignificant, they are several times cheaper than even small CBCT machines.

Why Your Dentist’s Office Needs an Intraoral 3D Scanner ...

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Intraoral scanners, alongside other dental 3D scanning technologies, offer a significant range of benefits to both dentists and patients. And it’s not just us saying that — peer-reviewed studies also note the advantages dental 3D scanners offer. These benefits include:

  1. Better Dental Imaging: Intraoral scanners beat traditional imaging methods, like moulding trays, in practically every way. The resulting 3D model is more accurate and detailed than anything traditional imaging can produce.
  2. Improved Patient Comfort: Dental patients appreciate not having to bite a tray during imaging. Additionally, intraoral 3D scanners are completely non-invasive and don’t use radiation, which reduces the risk of complications.
  3. Accurate Design: The scanned 3D models’ high detail means dentists can design more accurate dentures, retainers, implants, and other appliances that can reduce the number of follow-up appointments. Combining a 3D scanner with a 3D printer also allows them to rapidly reproduce customized designs.
  4. Time and Cost Efficiency: Intraoral dental scanners are affordable when compared to other 3D scanning technologies. Their quick working speed means dentists can fit more patients into their day, while the high-accuracy scans slash the number of appointments needed to adjust appliances.
  5. Effective Planning: 3D models allow dental practitioners to view the patient’s dental anatomy from any angle, which can help plan for treatments and surgeries. Additionally, it’s easy to produce accurate surgical guides based on the 3D model that help improve operational success rate.
  6. Better Communication: With an accurate, rotatable 3D model, dentists can more easily explain to patients what their issues are and what can be done about them. This can improve communication and build trust between practitioner and patient when both are on the same page.

Applications of Dental 3D Scanning ...

Thanks to the impressive benefits they deliver, intraoral scanners and dental 3D scanning have become the standard in top-quality dental care. Another factor for these technologies’ prevalence is their versatility.

Dental 3D scanners can help dental professionals in practically all aspects of their jobs, including:

Dental Implants

Intraoral 3D scanners create a high-accuracy 3D model that helps dentists review critical information about the size and shape of the patient’s dental anatomy. Based on this data, they can then create perfectly fitting teeth, bridges, dentures, or other implants.

Orthodontic Treatment

During orthodontic treatment, it’s crucial to closely monitor the movement and positioning of the patient’s teeth. Dental 3D scanning makes it fast and easy to get an accurate comparison model that helps dentists adjust braces or retainers as necessary.

Root Canal Treatment

A detailed 3D scans can help dentists more accurately determine what kind of tissue damage they’re dealing with when planning for root canal treatment. As a result, they can more easily target the right areas without causing further damage or pain to the patient.

Oral Surgeries

Dental 3D scanning can significantly improve the success rate of oral surgery. 3D models allow for more careful evaluation of the problem and enables better planning. It’s also easy to produce high-quality surgical guides based on the 3D data.

Appliance and Treatment Development

Accurate 3D scan data helps both practicing dentists and researches develop more effective dental appliances, treatment methods, and tools. It can also enable the production of completely customized oral healthcare items, especially when combined with 3D printing.

Education and Training

It’s easy to share the scanned 3D models between dentists, researchers, and educational institutes. As a result, future dentists can study high-detailed dental models and illustrations that can help them provide better care and improve the standards of medical training.

The Future of Dentistry — Today

It’d be tempting to say that intraoral 3D scanning is the future of dentistry, but that’d be incorrect. It’s not the future — the technology is already in regular use and it’s not going anywhere.

The multiple advantages and wide applicability of dental 3D scanning have made intraoral scanners, such as 3DISC Heron, practically standard equipment in modern dental care. Simply put, they help dentists offer better and more comfortable care for their patients at an affordable price.

Contact the friendly dental 3D scanning experts at Solid Print Dental and learn how your clinic can start using intraoral 3D scanners. Call us on 01926 333 796 or email us at