By: Dr. Kyle Fagala, DDS, MDS
A year ago, we posted a blog about bringing the innovative new iTero Element Intraoral Scanner to our Germantown and Collierville orthodontic offices. At the time, we were the only orthodontics office in Memphis using this new iTero technology, adding an extra element of ease to the process of preparing for treatment with braces and Invisalign. To kick off 2017, we’re proud to announce another exclusive first in Memphis orthodontics - using 3D printing to create tooth models and retainers for our patients onsite.
Read below to learn about this exciting, new technology, how it is changing the way we do orthodontics, how it is better for you, and most importantly - don't miss the video where I describe a part of the process that looks *exactly* like a dance club. ;)
The iTero Element Scanner scanning process
As a digitally-driven office, SCO is always looking for ways we can make the orthodontic process more streamlined and less invasive. Acquiring an iTero Element Intraoral Scanner in 2015 was a big step towards that kind of efficiency. Traditionally, before braces are put into place, there’s prep work involved, such as multiple x-rays and intraoral photographs, as well as the goopy, gag-inducing alginate impression so many patients hate. These are important steps that can’t be skipped, because they allow the orthodontist to create an individualized treatment plan on a case-by-case basis.
Several patients require auxillary appliances to reach an ideal outcome. Traditionally, for appliance fabrication, we would take an alginate impression, use plaster to make a stone model of the teeth, then send those models through the mail for construction of the expander, space maintainer, or Herbst appliance. This traditional process is reliable, though less accurate than more modern methods, and it ultimately adds 2 to 3 more appointments for patients. Enter iTero digital scanning!
The iTero scanner works by scanning each tooth, as well as the layout of the gums and the mouth. The whole process only takes 10-15 minutes, and it quickly provides an extremely accurate, 3-D view of the mouth. Once the scan has been completed, we are able to view the images together with the patient, and can even see a simulation of the braces or Invisalign treatment being considered. This data can then be sent wirelessly to an orthodontic lab, where they print a 3D stereolithographic model, create the necessary appliance, and have it back to our office in about a week.
3D printing comes to Memphis
The iTero scanner was just the beginning of SCO seeking out the best technology available to make the orthodontic treatments we offer as effortless and comfortable as possible. In recent months, we’ve added a FormLabs Form 2 Desktop SLA 3D Printer to our all-star lineup of equipment. Not only are we now able to save our patients time, we’re able to provide a better, more accurate fit by combining the iTero scanner with our new 3D printer, all within the comfort of our own offices.
The best part of our 3D printer is the ability to create the orthodontic clear retainers we need, precisely when we need them, without the traditional goopy impressions. We still send our digital scans to an outside lab for appliances, but your impression data now stays stored in our cloud. This allows us to access that saved impression any time we need to. For example, in the past, if a patient lost a retainer, we would have to take a new impression and fabricate a new retainer. With our new 3D printing process, we have all we need to make a new retainer that same day. What about a tooth that has moved a little bit following treatment? In the very near future, we will be able to adjust that tooth digitally and print a small series of clear retainers to straighten that tooth quickly and comfortably.
Here's a quick video I filmed to show you a bit of the process in our office:
How high tech can work for you
Whether you’re a patient or an orthodontist, taking advantage of the latest technology available in orthodontics is beneficial.
For patients, eliminating the mess and time involved in traditional impressions is a bonus, and we can guarantee a more accurate impression of the mouth, resulting in a better fit of your retainers. Being able to both scan and print devices in our Germantown or Collierville office is convenient, and having ready access to impressions to adjust or reprint as needed eliminates the need for reimpressions.
For orthodontists, iTero scanning plus 3D printing offers your patients superior service using the latest high tech equipment to give you the most accurate images and fit available. Since these are still relatively new technologies, many areas will only have one or two orthodontists using them, giving your practice an edge when it comes to offering a whole other level of individualized orthodontic treatment.
To learn more about how high tech orthodontics can work for you, contact our SCO team to set up a tour of our Germantown or Collierville office, check out our 3D printing snap story above, or give us a call to schedule a free consultation.
Hope to meet you soon!
Kyle Fagala, DDS, MDS