Townie Survey: Tech Questions

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Dentaltown Magazine

We asked Townies which areas of orthodontics they were most interested in learning about—and here they explain what and why, in their own words.

Orthotown asked, and dozens of Townies replied. We tallied the responses when Townie Choice Awards voters weighed in on the areas of orthodontics they had questions about, and the categories that received the most answers were 3D printing and digital scanners.
Next, we dug deeper, asking our Townies to get specific and discuss what exactly they hoped to learn about these developing devices and technologies. Over the next few pages, you’ll hear from your fellow orthodontists in their own words about what they hope to incorporate into their future practice.

3D Printing

Orthotown editorial director Dr. Dan Grob says:
“The 3D printer was once considered a fancy, overpriced toy but its realities and usefulness are becoming more viable and mainstream. Should one consider horizontal or vertical, one-up or perhaps eight? These are just some of the questions and consideration that one needs to be aware of. How about supporting software? There are many factors to consider, and clinicians and business owners need to do some research before jumping in.”

Dr. Jenny Zhu, New York
“I’m curious to learn how 3D printing can help me completely replace alginate impressions efficiently. What good programs are out there to help me clean up 3D scans? What’s available to manipulate teeth so I can design retainers with small tooth movements? And, of course, I have questions about costs.”

Dr. Alison Mantel, Cedarburg, Wisconsin

“As a recent grad and the owner of a startup during a recession, I’d like to explore the economic advantages and disadvantages when using a scanned, 3D-printed model versus alginate and stone. Factors to consider would be: accuracy (remake percentage); chair time for a scan versus impression; lab fees and material costs; and doctor’s time.

Which scanners and 3D printers provide the most seamless experience? What are the environmental impacts of disposing of 3D models? Are there greater risks to our technicians when applying heat and solder to the 3D model material?

We currently provide same-appointment Essix retainers. From impression to product, they are delivered in 20 minutes. There are several 3D printers on the market right now, and it appears many are not as fast as Snap-Stone. Do 3D models come with enough advantages to justify the increase in fabrication time?”

Dr. Brett Garrett, San Luis Obispo, California

“I’ve now purchased a 3D printer, which means some of my original questions have been answered, but many others have opened up. What software (both Mac and PC) are people using to preprocess the digital .STL files so that print time and resin use are minimized? What software options (both Mac and PC) are available in-office—not outsourced—to move teeth and plan minor tooth movement treatment, then convert to .STL files before printing? And what are people’s experiences with the direct printing of clear retainers or indirect bonding trays?”

Digital Impressions and Scanners

Orthotown editorial director Dr. Dan Grob says:
“If you’ve ever had to remake an impression, you recognize the disgusted looks that appear on the faces of the patient and the frustrated assistant. That setback is not only a time consumer but also a costly addition to the laboratory portion of the restoration or appliances. With intraoral scanners becoming lighter, easier to use and more cost-effective, what are the options? Practitioners need to know the upfront costs as well as recurring fees to make an adequate decision. Plus, portability is increasingly becoming an issue with multiple office situations.”

Dr. Carlo Bonapace, Turin, Italy

“My interest in scanners is due to the awareness of this technology’s presence of orthodontics, and indeed it will develop rapidly. It is wonderful to work in an alginate and stone-free office—it’s efficient and the patients appreciate it. Unfortunately, intraoral scanners are still expensive and not all orthodontic offices—especially small, single-practitioner ones—can afford them. Also, for maximum efficiency, one should even have a good in-office 3D printer, and that raises the cost.”

Dr. Michael Richards, Farr West, Utah

“I believe that digital orthodontics will increase the orthodontist’s efficiency and productivity, and also improve the patients experience and quality of the treatment.
How do I smoothly incorporate digital technology into my practice? I can do quite a bit with the current technology, but how can I use it to actually save time and money, making my practice more efficient? And what kind of software is best for scanning and printing?”

Dr. Scott Rensch, Anoka, Minnesota

“I’d like to understand the difference in the scanners and printers currently on the market—speed, cost, technology, size, ongoing cost, etc. I’d also like to know about the auxiliary software technology that goes with these printers/scanners, such as:
1. The software that removes the braces on a scan so a retainer can be made ahead of time.
2. How certain software will allow you to hollow out the base to save material costs, or other software that supposedly flattens the base to better print the models.
3. And what other software is out there that I don’t even know about?”

Dr. Jeff Stein, Palm Harbor, Florida

“I have a digital scanner and a digital X-ray machine. When are these two technologies going to be integrated to provide a realistic 3D rendering of a patient more than just with a 3D CAT scan?”

Julia Vlachojannis, Athens, Greece

“I practice in Greece; are scanners really time- and cost-effective in eastern European countries, which have cheaper labor (3–5 euros an hour)? Is it not better to wait so that the scanning process gets even faster? We’ve gone from a huge machine to a handheld machine—is the future promising? I don’t believe that the ROI would be relevant at this time, except maybe the publicity factor.
My assistant tried fabricating a first-phase appliance of a 3D scan printer, and the final result revealed very difficultly, because the acrylic was sticking to the material the mold was made from. What should we be using for successful separation and appliance fabrication?”

You’ve got questions... we’ll provide answers
The Townies listed here are just a few of those who shared their questions related to 3D printing and digital impressions and scanners. Throughout our 2019 issues of Orthotown, we’ll provide suggestions and advice from experienced users and industry experts, who’ll answer these questions and help improve the way you perform orthodontics today.

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Sally Gross, Member Services Specialist
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