What You Need to Know Before Buying an Intraoral Scanner


USA-based Dr. John Heimke is one of seven hand-picked dentists from around the world honoured as a member of the Oral Design International Foundation. Dr. Heimke shares what he believes you should consider before going digital with an intraoral scanner.

Number one, you need to assess the technology in your office. Bring in your IT company so they can evaluate your technology needs. Also, when talking with the scanner company, have them consider, along with your IT company, that you have all the right specs involved. If your technology is five generations back, it’s probably not going to be a fit.

When you add an IO scanner, you’re also going to need to integrate the scans into your workflows. So, you need to consider how compatible the file outputs from the scanner you’ve chosen are with the design and production software you or your production partners use. Is the scanner going to help you to scale the services that you offer patients? Some systems are closed, some open. What kind of material and manufacturer’s solutions will it integrate with? You need to first consider these questions or choose a system that you know from the start, is open and scalable.

Two, you’re going to have to find out what kind of footprint you want from the intraoral scanner. Do you want a big cart, or a small mobile cart with a laptop? Do you want a corded versus an uncorded intraoral scanner? Do you want colour or mono? The only way you are going to be able to do that is by having a rep come in and let you demo different units. Alternatively, go to a show and try different scanners.

Learning to use an intraoral scanner is a process

Thirdly, you have to talk to your team and explain to them that this is where you want to be going. There’s going to be an implementation process. With this type of technology, because it is a core technology in dentistry, it has to become routine for you and the team. The only way to do that is use it daily. You and your team need to commit.

You know, my practice is still evolving on this. It’s not going to happen in a month. It’s going to take a little time. It’s just like dentistry in the analogue world when you had to take many analogue impressions to become skilled at what you do, it works the same way. You learn to do it in a process. What we did, for example, was to start taking diagnostic impressions on every new patient. And then we evolved into taking impressions on single units. And then you can move to taking final impressions for larger arch cases.

Remember, if you have to take an analogue impression, you can always take both an analogue impression and a wireless impression in the beginning. Eventually, you’ll end up dropping the analogue and just go digital, believe me.

You need to commit. And you need to commit to practicing. It’s just like going to the gym and exercising. You’re building muscle. So, you need to scan on a regular basis. If you do it sporadically you will never achieve the necessary skills to produce excellent intraoral scans.

Practice on team members and watch videos

You can practice on static models. You can practice on team members. Go to the internet; YouTube is a great place. You can get scan strategies made by 3Shape. I review those on a monthly basis, actually. Just because I want it to be totally ingrained in my head on how to do that. These instructional videos are quite helpful. They’re not super long. And then you just kind of work off that. Just like anything these days: if I want to fix my car because I have a problem, I can look on YouTube and find anything to do. 3Shape has done the same thing with instructional videos. It’s like a paper manual, only better, because everybody loves looking at a video and you can learn quickly that way.

One of the greatest advantages of going digital is that basically, it lets us carry the design all the way through the treatment sequence. From the consultation down to the planning, down to the motivation of the patient, to prototype, to the final-end result. Your files are digital, so everything you do is digital, stable, and predictable.

So lastly, if you have a lab, you must speak with them first before you purchase an intraoral scanner. Find out if they are digital-ready to work with its IO scans.

Peter Kouvaris (left) with Dr. John Heimke

My practice is very fortunate because our laboratory really loves digital impressions because of the efficiency they enable. They make our workflow so much faster. We use Oral Design Laboratory, Pinhas Adar out of Atlanta, and Peter Kouvaris in Manhattan. So even though I am based in Ohio, they receive my cases in a matter of minutes, instead of days. The preciseness of the results, the digital models are amazing. They are so superior to the analogue that it’s just a natural evolution we are seeing. Our work is better than ever before. Analog is always going to be there, but with digital, you’re more efficient, much more precise, and with your human touch, you make smiles come alive.

Dr. John Heimke

Dr. John Heimke is a 1989 graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, earning his degree of Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD). He utilises facial aesthetic-oral design, digital smile design, and digital dentistry at his private solo restorative practice in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. He is an expert in emotional dentistry, "The Aging Smile”, smile makeovers, full mouth reconstruction via porcelain veneers, crowns, bridges, dental implants, full arch implant-monolithic zirconia bridge, and dentures.