November 9, 2021

Digital Scanners for Patient Education

Intra oral scanners are used for capturing digital impressions of the teeth and surrounding tissue, eliminating the need for traditional alginate dental impressions. Not only are they a great tool for the doctor to use during restorative treatment, but they can also aid in patient education. With the help of an intra oral scanner, the patient can more clearly see areas in their mouth that might need attention. Scanners are also used to take digital impressions for orthodontic treatment, including Invisalign.

In a recent BURST tv segment, dental hygienists Cristina and Gina take a closer look at the iTero scanner and how hygienists and assistants can use it to help patients understand diagnosis and treatment needed otherwise known as patient education. Specifically, the scanner can be used to educate patients on occlusion, areas of decay, and broken fillings. Additionally, the scanner can be used to plan orthodontic treatment in collaboration with a dental lab.

To use the iTero scanner properly, the clinician will place the scanner parallel to the occlusal plane of the teeth and the program will let the clinician know in which sequence to move. First the occlusal, then the linguals, and lastly the buccal surfaces. The clinician will want to scan 2 millimeters of the gumline. The program will mark any imperfect areas on the scan in blue for the clinician to go back and rescan. Lastly for the scan, the clinician will ask the patient to close down so that the clinician may scan the patients bite. The whole scan process typically takes about 2.5 to 3 minutes. For dental hygienists, a good time for the clinician to take a scan is at the beginning of the appointment. Then the clinician can complete his/her other tasks during the appointment such as periodontal probing, prophylaxis, etc. and at the end of the appointment can review all findings with the patient referencing the iTero scan and clinical observations.

The iTero creates a digital model of the teeth than the clinician can use for patient education. A couple of the features the iTero program offers is the occlusal gram and the real-time video of the scan. The occlusal gram is essentially a heat map which shows where the bite is heavier. This can be used to show the patient wear facets and offer solutions such as an occlusal guard to aligning the bite with orthodontics. The real-time video can be used to present to the patient any areas of concern such as a broken filling. Another benefit of the real-time video is that the program allows the clinician to take a screenshot of a specific image (doubling the scanner as in intra-oral camera) which will be stored to the cloud and may be sent to the patient.

In conclusion, digital scanners benefit the clinician by saving time and increasing accuracy. It is also a benefit to the patient as the scanner is much more comfortable than a traditional impression and they can see for themselves on the display exactly what the provider sees. Overall, the use of digital scanners like the iTero are a win-win for the dental practice and patients.