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This gag is serious

A study published by the American Dental Association on the epidemiology of gagging during dental treatment found that almost half of the studys 478 participants reported gagging on at least one occasion during dental visits. In addition, 7.5 percent of participants reported almost always or always gagging.

The study showed that because of the high frequency of problems with gagging, patients were more likely to have greater levels of dental care-related fear, fear of pain and increased negative beliefs about dental professionals and dental treatment.*

Are your patients frightened of you?

While calming the one in ten patients that might be avoiding you because of a fear of gagging may not seem like an overwhelming reason to switch to digital impression taking, it is worth considering.

In a recent story published on Orthodontic Products regarding digital impressions, the article's author, Jamie Reynolds, DDS, MS, reported that his practice experienced significant demand from patients willing to pay extra for PVS-free treatment. Adding, he could “list at least 10 patients who have said they chose our practice because of the option to not have PVS impressions.”

At a Scandefa dental show in Denmark, a 3Shape Academy instructor performed an intraoral scan on a visiting dentist to the conference. The dentist had a severe gag reflex. So much so that the dentist had avoided treatment for many years, which showed in the condition of his mouth. In itself, unusual for a fellow professional.

The academy instructor was able to complete the scan by stopping and starting a few times, taking his time to give the dentist a break to relax. TRIOS, the intraoral scanner, has a smart edit function, which merges scan-takes automatically. As a result, there was no need for him to start over each time he stopped scanning, he just picked up where he left off.   

The dentist was, needless to say, overwhelmed with the results, especially in terms of soothing his gagging anxiety. And angry as well for having spent the last 10 years using a competitor's scanner. He now plans to get the much-needed work done on his mouth (and a new intraoral scanner).

Making a difference

Digital technology has begun to differentiate modern dental offices from conventional ones. Providing a unique selling point that increases patient flow, advances diagnostic and treatment outcomes, and according to industry experts, improves revenue.

Having a hi-tech clinic is attractive to both patients and personnel.  The elimination of traditional impressions by using an intraoral scanner is turning out to be an important differentiator for clinics. Not to mention, a great way to make treatment more comfortable for patients and easier for staff.

Accuracy and comfort

In Reynolds's words, “PVS is a flawed material. Any orthodontist that has aligners or jigs fabricated knows they fit significantly better using a digital intraoral scanner. The improvement from PVS impressions is unquestionable.”

In a 3Shape interview with dental lab owner, Sune Schmidt of Schmidt Dental Lab, regarding the accuracy of digital impressions and the elimination of models, Schmidt agreed, saying, “Most of the time it's the hands of the technician that makes the errors and not the machines. Adding, “when I make a model-free crown now, and at times create a model to check it with, its usually the contact points that need changing. This is because of inaccuracies inherent in the model and not the crown. The models are where the errors come in.” Schmidt's lab works extensively with dentists using TRIOS and in turn, digital impressions to manufacture model free crowns.

To underline the point even further, a study published by The Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry** on the quality of dental impressions for fixed partial dentures, found that 89% of the impressions had one or more detectable errors. Fifty-one percent had voids or tears at the finish line, 40% had air bubbles at the finish line and 24% had flow problems.

The study concluded that: “impressions made with polyether had the most detectable errors, followed by condensation-type silicones. The high frequency of detectable errors found in impressions sent for FPD fabrication is of concern.”

So according to the study, not only are the thought of PVS impressions driving approximately 10% of your customers away, traditional impressions are messing up your work as well – no pun intended.  

There are many reasons to choose an intraoral scanner. Patient comfort and better accuracy are a good start.

While the investment in an intraoral scanner may seem high, the growing list of benefits, documented ROI, and the industry's increasing conversion to digital technology are outweighing the expense.

Alternatively, you can do what one clinic in Australia is now doing to calm patients. They are providing yoga breathing, meditation for mindfulness and the Alexander Technique for posture and jaw alignment to help relax patients.

For more good reasons to go digital, we recommend reading: "My first 100 days with TRIOS"- an interview with Dr. Wendy AuClair Clark, DDS, MS.

*Gagging and its associations with dental care-related fear, fear of pain and beliefs about treatment -
**Samet N, Shohat M, Liviny A, Weiss EI. A clinical evaluation of fixed partial denture impressions. J Prosthet Dent. 2005;94:112-117 -