Back in 2002, when I got braces on, taking an alginate impression in order to produce study models was de rigueur for orthodontic treatment. I don’t remember the exact procedure for taking them, but I do remember really NOT liking it. The impression material was gooey, had to be in my mouth for much longer than I liked, and was a bit gag-inducing. For those without a strong gag reflex, it isn’t so bad, but for me? Let’s just leave it at not pleasant.
Fast forward nearly 10 years, and enter a cutting edge technology- the Cadent iOC digital impression system powered by their iTero scanner - and we just got two of them here at Orthodontic Associates of Southeastern Connecticut- We will be using them for new patients starting treatment with us!
Our clinical assistants have been busy training to learn to use the iTero scanners, and I volunteered to let Diane practice scanning on me so that I could tell you all about the experience! I’m writing this to explain the patient experience, as I am one of the team members here at OASECT with very little clinical knowledge-I do technology management here so I work almost exclusively managing our computer equipment and network.
Let me start off by saying that I am a big baby when it comes to my teeth. I have hated going to the dentist ever since I was a child and had a really traumatic tooth extraction. So I went into it a little apprehensive, but curious nonetheless.
Diane explained to me that essentially, what she would be doing is taking images of each individual tooth, my bite, and palate, and putting them together like a puzzle. The iTero scanner uses both optical and laser scanning technology to create a 3D virtual replica of your teeth. There is NO radiation, as it is not an x-ray, and provides a more accurate and precise model of your teeth than conventional impressions ever could.
I leaned back into the chair and took a deep breath:
Diane began with my lower left teeth, worked her way to the lower front center, then continued with the lower right and worked towards the lower front center on that side.
After the lower arch was completed, she began on the upper arch, followed by the bite on each side. Finally, she finished by taking scans of my upper palate to complete the digital model.
The iTero scan was very, very cool. It was almost unreal to watch as my teeth appeared on the screen. Diane explained each step to me as she was doing them, so I was able to understand how what she was doing translated into the digital model that appeared before me. The screen showed a real time image of my teeth and what the scanner was going to capture, and as she scanned each section it was automatically built into the digital model. See it as it happens here:
It was way more comfortable than a traditional impression; the only thing I really noticed was that the iTero blows air to help keep tooth surfaces dry as you are scanning- so you will definitely want a sip of water when you are done.
Here is what a finished digital impression looks like:
Pretty cool, huh?