What was your first step in evaluating intraoral scanners?
When I decided to get into intraoral scanning I talked to many sales representatives. I noticed that there were a lot of differences in the scanners, but it was very hard to compare them.
I did a bunch of website research reading up on them but found it still hard to compare. I went to the American Dental Association annual session which was held in San Antonio, Texas that year. I went to the exhibit hall and started looking for scanners. I looked at all of the scanners and held them in my hands and used them.
By going to an event and trying them all, I was able to see not only how the scanners scanned teeth but also the way the computer software works. Holding the scanners in my hands and using them was also revealing.
Some scanners were enormous with heavy cords. The computer interface of some scanners was slow and hard to understand, some would take minutes to "capture" the scan. I would encourage anyone looking at a scanner to go to a large meeting and try out all of the intraoral scanners that are available by hand.
What was your most important criteria?
Getting into scanning is a big deal and trying to make sure that I got the right scanner was important. Scanners are not cheap and I knew if I got the wrong scanner it would cost me more.
I really wanted a scanner that we were going to adapt to easily and use. I have many dentist friends that buy technology and a few months later it is sitting in a closet in their office.
I didn't want that to happen. The most important criteria were to get a scanner we would make sure we could adapt to easily, and that it would work great. Ease of use I would say was the top of that criteria.
Did you create a spreadsheet as an overview?
Let me explain something I learned about pricing scanners. The cost of the scanner is not just the upfront cost of the scanner. You really need to consider the cost of ownership of the scanner. What I mean by this is how much will the scanner cost you to own and operate over the scanners’ lifetime.
I took 3M, Cerec, PlanScan, 3Shape TRIOS, iTero and added up the costs. This sounds much simpler then it is.
The costs of each scanner vary wildly. Some scanners charge a dongle fee (this is a per use charge), some scanners have yearly fees, some charge monthly fees, warranty fees, support fees, etc. So, what I did was added together the:
- Upfront costs of the scanner
- Fees and maintenance agreements
And multiplied it by six years. This gave me the cost to own and operate the scanner for six years. I found the TRIOS scanner to be the lowest cost scanner. Which really was surprising because it was the most expensive scanner upfront.
Once you started really looking, did you discover new pros and cons for different brands?
There are big pros and cons of the different scanners. Each and every scanner is vastly different. It is easy to make a separation in the scanners once you look at them all, especially if you get them in your hand and use them. I really had some preconceived notions going into the buying of which brands I would like. It turns out that as I tested the scanners, things like:
- Speed of the scanner. This was important (some scanners took minutes to do what others could do in seconds).
- Having to "hover" the scanner at a certain distance from the teeth. That proved to be much harder to do then it sounded like when I was reading about it.
- Scanner tip size. Can it fit in a mouth?
- The handle of the scanner. This really made a difference in how easy the scanner was to use.
- Is the software platform open or closed?
- Powder. Using powder to capture images was hard to do. When I was using scanners that used powder I could see how a patient could salivate the powder off, or lick it off, or the powder would build up and distort the scan or not enough powder and not capture correctly.
I could see each of these things would influence how hard it would be to incorporate the scanner in our practice. The price of the scanners varies greatly but as I stated above, don't be fooled by a low entry price only to pay a large price each month or even with every use.
What was the biggest factor that made you decide on one particular brand?
I would have to say, ease of use. What I mean by that is this, every day in private practice we are very busy. You have lots of things pulling on you in every direction. We have hygiene to check, great dentistry to do, emergencies to work in, staff to deal with, phone calls to return.
The last thing I wanted was a headache with a scanner. When I was looking at all the scanners I found the 3Shape TRIOS was just plain easier to use than every other scanner. One of the other brands was close but dealing with the powder I knew was going to put a huge extra hurdle in using it.
When did you know you made the right decision?
I have found over the years that if you buy the best you will use it and love it. A scanner is something we would use constantly every day. I wanted the one that was easy to use and had intuitive software with it. We found it very easy to integrate this into our office and by the end of our first week it was readily apparent we were on to something great.
I knew if the scanner was hard to use, or took a long time chairside to accomplish a scan we would get busy and find ourselves abandoning the scanner to take a quick impression. The scanner is so easy to use and made us more efficient immediately. After the first week, we couldn't imagine just sitting there for 6 minutes waiting for an impression to set praying the gums didn't bleed and distort our impression.
When I say that it actually sounds funny to me that we used to sit and wait and hope our impression would work. The 3Shape TRIOS has such an ease of use we adapted to it instantly.