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The real cost of an analogue impression

Digital impression technology can lay a foundation for rapid return on investment. (Image: Ivosar/Shutterstock)

Fri. 22. July 2022


Digital dentistry is a major cost, and a sound investment is dependent on realistic return on investment (ROI) planning. What sort of offset costs can be achieved? Can you match your ROI with patient care? Thousands of dentists have already put intra-oral scanning equipment through its paces—day in and day out. I’ve been asked to reflect on the following question: was it worth spending the money when you bought into digital impression technology?

The financial impact of digital impressions on my business

I think that from a financial standpoint, for restorative dentistry, the greatest advantage was the efficiency of utilising our team members in the office. Many obligated duties for managing the physical impressions were essentially gone overnight! Before, we were taking impressions all day long, and there was a team member whose responsibility was to disinfect the impressions and manage the prescription slips, the shipping, the return date, pouring the opposing models and whatnot. Simply not having to do that directly equates to a significant savings because we can now manage that team member’s time more efficiently. That team member can move on to the next patient.

There is no extra laboratory work that needs to be done before the end of the day, no racing to the UPS or the FedEx box. We noticed that right away, and that is one of the prime advantages of moving to intra-oral scanning for a dentist who is not currently doing so.

The bulk of savings is in laboratory turnaround time

The second thing is the improvement in turnaround time with the laboratories. Before, we would routinely wait for two full weeks for a restoration to come back to our office. The dental office is based on the East Coast of the US, but often we use laboratories on the West Coast.

Now, if I scan, say, on a Monday morning, the restoration arrives on Wednesday morning for that model. For our routine procedure, which is between one and three units, we produce all of them without any physical models.

Taking advantage of the digital workflow in that way has really helped the efficiency of our practice and our business. I shared that feedback a couple of years ago with 3Shape when the company was working on the ROI calculator: that is the bulk of the financial savings that I can attribute to the TRIOS. These financial benefits can be gained by any dentist within the first couple of months.

What growth to expect after starting with intra-oral scanning

I know that our clinic has grown every year since we have introduced this technology and that there is a component of the incorporation of this technology that is part of that growth. I share that information with dentists in my area. I could figure out percentages for my own clinic, but I can tell you from patient visits that I think we are more productive actually. I am working more days now, coming out of the pandemic, but prior to the pandemic, I was working fewer clinical days but producing more revenue than I had in the previous years.

My most enjoyable year in practice was 2019, prior to the current world difficulties, when we really were firing on all cylinders by incorporating this technology. We were doing at least one to two reconstructive cases digitally per month, and it was a very enjoyable way to practice and it was profitable.

Using the technology goes far beyond just an impression replacement when you look at the ROI calculator, but even if the dentist is only focused on acquiring the TRIOS as an impression replacement, it can be asserted that buying a TRIOS will save him or her money.

Fig. 1: Comparison of polyvinyl cost versus scanner cost. The cost saving reflects the saving on polyvinyl only. It does not include staff time, staff efficiency, shipping savings or increased revenue due to higher case acceptance. This cost offset calculation is just an example.

My experience with offsetting costs when purchasing my dental 3D scanner

In my one-dentist clinic, I was spending about US$500 (€490) or US$600 a month on polyvinyl impression material prior to buying a scanner. When I bought my first scanner, the TRIOS 2, I think the payment on the scanner was US$700 or US$800 a month. Thus, there was already a cost offset from not having to buy the polyvinyl (Fig. 1). A dentist considering acquiring the technology has to figure out what it is going to cost per month, because most dentists are going to finance it through their reseller. The subscription cost also needs to be added on top of that.

In some cases, the dentist may be spending a few dollars more on his or her TRIOS investment, initially at least. However, this does not consider the cost savings of the time benefits that I mentioned, the savings from utilising the team with greater efficiency, rather than spending payroll on a team member pouring models and making UPS labels and things like that. When the dentist first introduces the scanner, it is almost a one-to-one transfer, and I do not think it will cost the dentist any extra to move to this technology, but then as he or she really starts utilising it and leveraging the other tools that are included, that is when he or she will really start to see many of the advancements and the savings—the true ROI.

The time you spend as a dentist is a key cost factor

If I was looking at this afresh, it would be difficult to imagine that buying this piece of technology would save me US$100,000 (€98.000), US$200,000, US$300,000. However, from the experience that I have had, I know that it has saved me money and that it has helped grow my practice and my reputation in the dental community.

How my team adjusted to the new impression technology

My dental assistant is over 60, and she has been in dental assisting for 40 years. She was able to pick up this technology within the first couple of months. She manages the calibration and the 3Shape Dental Desktop platform, she handles the management of case orders on a daily basis, and she can copy and edit orders and things like this. She was able to learn how to use the system, and she is a more experienced person with a vast analogue background. It is very easy to use and share data. When patients come in, we will take the smile design photographs, and I will bring these into TRIOS Smile Design and see whether the gingival levels are where we want them or see whether the crowns are where we want them. I take screenshots of this or short videos and send these to the orthodontist. The orthodontist is always pleased with the level of data I provide and with the level of communication with patients enabled by this technology.

Editorial note:

This article was published in digital—international magazine of digital dentistry vol. 3, issue 2/2022.

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