Doctors and labs alike know that fabricating crowns and other appliances from traditional impressions can be challenging. With shipping delays, inaccurate stone model preparation, temperature fluctuations, expansion and shrinkage of materials—the results can lead to remakes, not to mention frustrated labs, doctors and patients. However, digital impressions eliminate these issues, allowing labs to reduce their remakes; manage cases online; and decrease their turnaround times, while facilitating stronger, more amiable relationships with practices.
First, when doctors use an intraoral digital scanner to capture impressions, they eliminate the need for traditional impression materials. Doing away with physical stone models means no more scheduling pick-up and drop-off times with couriers; waiting for shipments to arrive; and no more models broken en route. Instead of shipping stone models, digital images captured by a scanner are either emailed to a lab to be designed and milled, or doctors can design the restoration in-house and send the STL files for milling only. Plus, advanced acquisition software allows doctors to view scans in monochrome to allow them to see what the lab will be viewing in its design software. This creates a better perspective for doctor/lab communication.
Also, if doctors are using a scanner that is part of an open system, image files can be sent to any dental lab that uses open system CAD software and easily imported into its software for design; essentially the digital impression is delivered to the lab as quickly as it takes to send an email and download a file. In fact, digital impressions can reach the lab so quickly, that some labs are offering to check the accuracy of an impression while the patient is still in the chair. This eliminates the risk of retakes, which can be a time waste for the lab, practice and patient, alike.
However, even better than emailing digital scans, and especially valuable to a lab, is a hosted web-based platform to interconnect dental practices and laboratories. Such a platform enables the transmission of digital model data and allows dentists to quickly and easily submit cases. Labs can manage their cases online and doctors can track the progress of cases; no more constant phone calls between labs and practices.
The convenience, speed and efficiency of digital impressions are changing the relationship between practices and labs. Gone are the days of shipping costs; broken, unusable stone models; and terse back-and-forth between an exasperated lab and frustrated dental office, with the patient waiting for their crown caught in the middle.
What other ways do you see digital impressions improving the relationship between your practice and lab? If you’re already using digital impressions, how has your relationship with your lab changed?