How do I choose an intraoral scanner?

26 January 2022
4 min read

With the variety of intraoral scanners on the market, clinicians may wonder what the difference is between them. Like anything technical, a thorough look at the specs can give you plenty of info, but ultimately you need to know that the equipment you’re investing in will integrate with, and enhance, your clinical workflows.

Understanding what dental scanners offer in terms of adding commercial value to your practice and integrating seamlessly with your day-to-day is key. Here are some of the crucial elements you need to consider.

How much does an intraoral scanner cost?
Although cost is an obvious factor, getting value for money on any capital investment is the most important thing. Take time to work out when you will see a return on your investment through benefits such as faster impression taking, increased accuracy, better communication with the laboratory, higher case acceptance and being able to provide a better patient experience.

It’s also important to look out for potential catches in small print, such as a low initial unit cost, but with a contract that locks you into on-going upgrades or license fee costs. An intraoral scanner that allows you to upscale or upgrade if needed, but not as a prerequisite to your initial purchase will give you the flexibility you need to maximise the cost of your investment.

It is important to consider a purchase of a scanner as an investment and not as a cost. The right scanner for your practice will pay for itself quickly and open doors to new sources of revenue by offering new clinical applications within the clinic. 

What about speed and accuracy?
Many intraoral scanners talk about accuracy, but what does this mean in real terms? There are clinical instances where scanners typically struggle with capturing the accurate image, for example:

  • Scanning patients with a missing tooth – change of height and surface texture can cause scanners to struggle to pick up the information
  • Scanning of shiny dental materials, which can create artefacts – unless automated, removal with cutting tools can be time consuming
  • Subgingival scanning and margin registration can be tricky due to the depth at which the scanner needs to collect data
  • Scanning edentulous patients can be particularly difficult due to the texture of soft tissue

To understand how practical features can enhance your day-to-day, consider things such as:

  • Does it give you detailed, full-colour 3D representations of patients’ dentition?
  • Does the dental scanner have high-resolution sensors to deliver pinpoint accuracy?
  • What depth of scan does it offer and capture for subgingival or deep cavities and preparations?
  • Can it scan all dental surfaces including shiny materials?
  • How fast can it process images?
  • How long does it take to capture an arch or a full jaw?

These technical details will tell you more about the quality of impressions you’ll get. There are clinical studies that looked at different intraoral scanners and put their accuracy to their test. You can review them here.

Can you integrate it seamlessly with other devices?
Tech products often talk about things like being open source. Essentially, this is how a device operates in line with your other equipment and the products used by your partners.

Dental scanners need to communicate with a range of devices, including those at labs, and within your practice. You need one that can be used as part of a validated workflow, which enables you to view and send files securely whilst working in tandem with other devices. The intraoral scanner system you choose will also need to integrate with a wide range of workflows such as chairside restorations, indirect restorations, implants, orthodontics and sleep appliances.   

Once the scan is taken, clinicians can choose where to send the open file produced, which includes sending it to your lab or exporting the scan to your planning software.

Is it user-friendly?
Intuitive equipment enables you to work with it without pouring over manuals and spending hours on training.

An intraoral scanner should also be easy to handle to achieve a full scan comfortably for both operator and patient. Consider the depth of scan you can achieve with your intraoral scanner and make sure it has enough processing power to capture a smooth scan without lagging.

Intraoral scanner units with a fully rotatable touchscreen that can be tilted or turned as you work allow for full freedom of movement. Intuitive touchscreen controls also allow you to manipulate 3D images around the screen with the same finger gestures you’d use on your smartphone or other touchscreen devices.

Is it easy to clean?
If nothing else, Covid-19 has given the dental industry a renewed focus on decontamination protocols. To champion best practice here, any new equipment must be easy to clean.

Thoughtful and simple solutions to this include easy-to-remove sleeves, which enables clinicians to use the scanner again and again throughout the day by simply replacing the used sleeve with a new one.

Dentsply Sirona’s Primescan intraoral scanner has been designed with clinicians in mind. It integrates the features that support effective workflows and deliver superior outcomes, from accurate, fast high-quality scans to ease of use and removable sleeves.

Final food for thought before investing into an intraoral scanner
Before you embark on the digital dentistry journey with a new intraoral scanner, consider the points below and make sure to discuss them with your intraoral scanner provider:

  • How easy is the scanner to use every day? Is there a steep learning curve? Think of your staff and how easy it will be to delegate scanning of patients to a nurse.
  • “I need to be able to use it for most of my everyday procedures”. Is the scanner versatile enough to manage your everyday workload and the type of cases you treat?
  • Are you buying technology that gives you access to the latest updates or will you be left behind once the latest model is released? Look up the company’s history of support for the previous models, for insights into what your journey with that provider is going to be in the future.
  • What are your plans for the future? Are you likely to expand your treatment offering? Which scanner can keep up with that digital journey? How easy is it to upgrade or change to other options?
  • Have you researched the annual tax allowance for capital equipment options, and do you know what return on investment you can expect with the scanner you’re looking to buy?

To find out more about Dentsply Sirona’s Primescan, and to take advantage of their current offer*, visit Primescan | Dentsply Sirona UK or book a free 1:1 consultation online now.

*For a limited time only, when you buy Primescan AC digital scanner, you’ll receive 3 years of prepaid extended warranty and free ortho software. Terms & conditions apply.