In an ever-evolving dental landscape, technology continues to redefine the way we provide comprehensive care. One particular device that has rapidly gained traction is the intraoral scanner, an essential tool in streamlining workflows and improving patient experiences.

As general dentists, we have all had sales representatives walk into our clinics, extolling the lucrative prospects of integrating orthodontics into our practices, with the intraoral scanner serving as a critical stepping stone. While the promise of increased revenues is tempting, making such a significant capital investment necessitates a thoughtful, strategic approach.  It will ultimately depend on what you decide to make of it!

Intraoral scanners often serves as the first step to integrating orthodontics into a practice
Intraoral scanners often serve as the first step to integrating orthodontics into a practice.

Intraoral Scanners in Orthodontics and Your Practice

1. Practice Goals and Patient Needs

Before embarking on this investment, it is crucial to evaluate your practice’s goals and your patients' needs. Will introducing orthodontics align with your practice philosophy? Do your patients frequently request or require orthodontic consultations or treatments that you currently outsource?  It is always important to be on the lookout for orthodontic problems in your practice.  If there's a genuine demand, incorporating orthodontics could prove to be beneficial both from a patient satisfaction standpoint and a business perspective. 

2. Cost vs. Benefit Analysis

Intraoral scanners represent a significant investment, with price tags reaching tens of thousands of dollars. However, the potential benefits — from better diagnostics, treatment planning, flexibility, and enhanced patient comfort and satisfaction — could outweigh the costs in the long term.

Consider the potential increase in income from offering in-house orthodontic services versus referring these patients out. Additionally, remember to factor in the scanner's contribution to improving efficiency, reducing the need for traditional impressions, and enhancing patient communication.

3. Training and Education

Adopting a new technology such as an intraoral scanner is not merely about the hardware. It requires a dedication to learning and mastering the associated software, understanding its application in diagnosis, treatment planning, and patient communication. More importantly, before diving into orthodontics, ensure that you and your team are prepared for the technical skills and knowledge necessary for orthodontic procedures. This training can be acquired through workshops, seminars, and hands-on training programs.

Speaking of which, our upcoming hands-on orthodontic workshop is designed precisely for general dentists looking to explore the orthodontic domain. With a heavy focus on treatment planning and case selection, it provides an excellent opportunity to learn the ropes and efficiently integrate orthodontics into their practices.

4. Post-Purchase Support

The quality of support offered by the scanner manufacturer is another crucial factor. Reliable technical and customer support can make the transition smoother and ensure you can troubleshoot any issues promptly.  I have found over the years how much I value things in the office that simply “just work.”

5. Compatibility with Other Systems

Perhaps most importantly, an intraoral scanner should ideally integrate seamlessly with other digital systems in your practice.  This is particularly true when it comes to individual aligner software.   Many scanners are paired for compatibility with only certain software.  Prior to your investment, ensure the chosen scanner is compatible with what you may want to use as an aligner software.  Also ensure your existing systems and computer hardware are situated similarly.  Otherwise, be prepared for potential additional costs to upgrade other systems in your clinic.

6. Patient Perception and Experience

The transition to digital impressions via intraoral scanners typically leads to enhanced patient comfort and a more modern, high-tech perception of your practice. Our practice motto is “Excellence through Innovation” and I can’t imagine operating without our digital scanner. However, consider the learning curve and potential initial delays as your team adapts to the new technology.

Integrating orthodontics into your practice with the aid of an intraoral scanner is a decision not to be taken lightly. While the potential financial returns are attractive, it's crucial to balance them against the costs, the learning curve, and, most importantly, the changes to your practice dynamics and systems.

Our hands-on orthodontic workshop aims to guide you through this decision-making process, providing you with practical insights and skills to confidently venture into orthodontics. Consider joining us as we delve into the potential and the challenges of orthodontics for the general dentist. The path to expanding your practice begins with understanding the journey, and we’re here to walk with you every step of the way.


Dr. Tyler Rathburn is a resident faculty member of Spear Education and CDOCS.