Implementing Digital Impressions into your Orthodontic Practice

As a clinical consultant and trainer for orthodontic practices, I have seen firsthand the many benefits of switching from traditional impressions to digital. Many times, practices don’t realize how inaccurate their impressions are—until they notice that their appliances don’t fit properly when they come back from the lab. Intraoral scanners can remove the accuracy challenge from the practice, as well as improve the speed of the impression process.

If you are already considering implementing digital into your practice, the tips below may help you select the right scanner for your needs as well successfully incorporate it into your workflow.

Selection Process

Ease of use is one of the key factors to consider when looking at intraoral scanners. Many orthodontic assistants would say that a lightweight wand makes the process easier when taking scans and is more comfortable for the patient.

Mobility is something else practices should think about. Personally, I prefer scanners that can be plugged into whichever laptop or computer is in the room. With plug-in scanners, you don’t have to disrupt the patient in the chair; rather, you can take a scan on one patient and move on to the next room with the scanner in hand.

Last, but not least, consider the technology you are interested in using. These days, there are many closed and open digital impression systems, so you have to decide which is right for you. In addition, if you are using a local lab for fabrication, you should ask if they are up-to-date on digital impression technology and if they are able to use it. If they can’t accept the scans, it won’t benefit your practice in the long run.

Practice Implementation

After purchasing a new scanner, setting up some training is crucial. Many times, I see teams who are thrown into using the scanner right away and aren’t given as much training as they need. This can lead to scans that don’t turn out right or cause a significant delay in the scanning process.

Every scanner is different, which means that cleaning protocols can vary widely. When implementing the new scanner, be sure that the staff understands how to clean and disinfect between each patient use to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

There are also some schedule accommodations that must be made when incorporating a scanner into the practice. While traditional methods allowed the staff to take impressions in any chair, ensuring that the scanner doesn’t get overscheduled requires some forethought. If I am taking a scan on one patient and another patient needs a scan because they lost their retainer, this can be a challenge for the schedule because too many scans are needed at one time.

Scanners can have a positive impact on the impression process. For more information on implementing digital impressions into your office, see me at the 2015 Orthodontic Summit.

About Andrea Cook
With over 20 years of chairside experience, Andrea is a veteran in orthodontic procedures and clinical productivity. Andrea now works as a clinical consultant and trainer for orthodontic practices throughout the country and specializes in helping teams increase efficiency, improve communication and take their office to a new level of excellence.

To find out how Andrea can help your practice thrive, please visit

Carestream Dental Blog Administrator Contributor


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