Digital Impressions And Increased Patient Satisfaction: The Two Go Hand In Hand

In modern society, we expect immediacy in nearly everything we do.

Take information access. We expect immediate results when we search a topic on the internet. And, thanks to Google, fiber optics and super-fast connections, our search results show up in a second or two.

In the same way that modern technology has brought us information that’s immediate available, it has also provided instant communication. Considering the very first mobile phone only went on sale to the public a little over 30 years ago (DynaTAC in the US cost almost $4,000 each at the time!), it is astounding to think how far we have come in such a short amount of time.

Dentistry, however, did not embrace “digital” at the same pace, but it has caught up. Technology has advanced, traditional processes and techniques have been refined, protocols streamlined and high quality achieved. Today’s digital workflow enhances communication among the dental team, allowing the transfer of more information faster and more efficiently for the benefit of the dentist and patient—and the lab.

In the days before CAD/CAM, communication between the dentist and lab technician was a lengthy process. Now, however, color matching, patient preferences, margin verifications and prep height reduction can be determined before the patient leaves the chair.

With today’s instant technology, the lab can immediately communicate with the dentist. Innovative imaging solutions can send images as open STL files, in manageable file sizes. Within minutes, the lab receives these files in whatever ‘open’ CAD software it uses. A quick phone call or remote viewing call from the lab to the dentist enables both parties to work together, even before the patient has left the appointment.

Imagine that the lab wants to view a six-unit lower anterior case in occlusion and from the back of the mouth. By using one of the free remote viewing software programs available, the lab can see the dentist’s screen in real time and obtain feedback immediately.

Suppose a patient who suffers from sleep apnea has an extremely high gag reflex. In this scenario, an intraoral scanner proves to be invaluable. The patient can undergo complete arch scans without a hint of a gag. The clinician can start and stop scanning as needed to keep the patient comfortable, and the scanner simply continues from where it previously left off—without the need to start over from the beginning. If the clinician wonders whether the lab has enough palatal coverage, the lab simply views the scans remotely and highlights the areas where more data is required. The clinician then adds these localized areas and sends the scan off—confident that the lab has all the information it needs. The case is then designed in CAD software, 3D printed models are made, and a sleep apnea appliance is delivered within days.

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Digital impressions are not “the future.” They’re here now, and they are impacting the workflow of clinicians and the lab. Clearer initial information means fewer adjustments and remakes, easier collaboration and faster turnaround times. In many cases, the lab has more time to spend on aesthetics, because transit time and impression casting are taken out of the equation.

Ultimately, this transformation—which digital impressions have engendered—results in outstanding restorations and exceptional service. The outcome? Patient satisfaction and loyalty. And isn’t that the aim?

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