Digital dentistry is growing, with more dentists making the switch from the traditional to the digital impression-taking method. It’s no surprise, given the benefits of digital impressions. We met Professor Ji-Man Park, an expert in the digital dentistry field, at a symposium commemorating the launch of the Medit i500 intraoral scanner. Park, who is a professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at Yonsei University College of Dentistry, was giving a lecture on the “Accuracy and Clinical Validity of Intraoral Scanners”. We sat down for an interview to talk a bit about his experience in intraoral scanning and his expertise in the field. This article is the first of a three-part series about our insightful conversation.
Professor Park has been doing research on the clinical applications of digital dental technology as well as evaluating the performance of intraoral scanners, regularly interacting with other researchers at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, who first developed oral scans. Since the introduction of intraoral scanning in South Korea in 2010, Professor Park has been using various intraoral scanners and continued researching on 3D intraoral scanning, leading discussions about digital dentistry in Korea.
When did you begin using intraoral scanners?
I have been using intraoral scanners since early 2010. Since then, I have tried out various intraoral scanners. I tried out the i500 for the first time this year, in preparation for a clinical research project with the Ministry of Health and Welfare. I would like to put out a disclaimer here that I have no ties with Medit in any way and my opinions are purely mine.
What do you use your intraoral scanner for in your clinic?
We recently opened a digital aesthetics clinic at the Dental Hospital of the Yonsei University College of Dentistry, where we are actively using intraoral scanners to make aesthetic diagnoses based on digital data obtained from patients. The aesthetic design is based on three types of data: the profile photo of the patient, the intraoral scan, and the facial scan. The collected data will be used for patient consultation models, mock-ups, jigs for tooth preparation and temporary restoration. Recently, we performed a case of the mandibular incisor using an intraoral scanner. Even though the patient was rather demanding in terms of how the design should turn out, the digital smile design software ensured that the exposure of the lower teeth to the lower lip was well achieved. The edentulous jaw was also scanned without issues, something which was difficult to achieve using intraoral scanners until now. I am also gradually applying this device to cases requiring dentures.
What are the benefits of digital impressions versus the traditional impression-taking method?
There are many things that can be easily done with an intraoral scanner which would be difficult to do if we were to use the traditional impressions method. For example, intraoral scanners can be used in cases where a patient has a collapsed molar and requires dental prosthesis using thick molar wire, or for patients who need anterior aesthetic restoration while wearing an orthodontic bracket.
There were cases when temporary dentures needed to be made but we were unable to get an alginate impression for the patient due to severe vomiting reflex. In such instances, digital scanning can be used instead.
It is also easier to store and manage digital files as compared to physical models. Since intraoral scanning is convenient, you can scan every patient to obtain digital impressions for dental records. This enables you to prepare treatments such as anti-snoring devices or bleeching trays in advance before the patient’s next visit. In addition, should a patient lose his/her dentures, the treatment period can be shortened by skipping the metal framework fabrication stage as the dentist can simply use the stored data from the previous treatment.
Digital impressions seem to have a lot of advantages as compared to the conventional impressions-taking method. What do you think is the biggest advantage?
In my opinion, the biggest advantage of intraoral scanning is related to the progress of the technology that will soon make it popular and simple to use. By gradually accumulating patients’ dental records, the dentist will be able to compare a patient’s current dental records with past records and easily track changes in the patient’s condition. Over time, dentists will be able to monitor which teeth are getting worn out, or where the patient’s gums have receded. This makes intraoral scanners a good tool to periodically check on the status of patients in the clinic. I also think that it will enable dental clinicians to provide patients with better health care services.
In the next part, we talk with Professor Park about the affordability and the learning curve for intraoral scanners. Stay tuned!