Make the most of digitally driven patient conversations

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Make the most of digitally driven patient conversations

Dr Marcos White from Huddersfield in the UK uses the iTero intra-oral scanner to educate his patients, resulting in an enhanced treatment acceptance. (Image: Marcos White)

Tue. 21. November 2023

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HUDDERSFIELD, UK: Intra-oral scanners are completely redefining patient communication and practice growth. Align Technology is a leading brand in the intra-oral scanner and imaging industry with its iTero intra-oral scanners and imaging systems, helping dentists deliver optimal clinical outcomes and provide an elevated patient experience and contributing to practice efficiency and growth. 

Align’s iTero intra-oral scanners are driving restorative capabilities forward, powering over 80 million combined restorative and orthodontic scans* through an open system, integrated advanced diagnostic tools that support patient diagnosis and commitment to improved speed, accuracy and scanning experience. In addition to streamlined workflows with Align’s Invisalign system, its open system enables connectivity across leading CAD/CAM software, dental laboratories, and chairside production tools, as well as seamless connectivity with exocad software. 

Dr Marcos White from Huddersfield in the UK recently shared his experience with Align’s intra-oral scanners in a webinar that was part of the free Digital Excellence Series of educational presentations by dental experts and practitioners created by Align Education. He explained how he is using digital tools to enhance the treatment experience of his patients. Central to this is making full use of technology—particularly the iTero intra-oral scanner—to educate patients, enhancing treatment acceptance. 

“Imagine finding out that you can better care for patients, have better record keeping and deliver more predictable results, all with skills you already have and a tool you already own,” said Dr White. “For over 200 years, dentists have seen teeth one at a time in the reflection of a very tiny little dental mirror on a stick, and patients haven’t been able to see anything that we were seeing. Now we both can see the whole dentition. The iTero scanner’s touch screen allows us to demonstrate our observations to the patient in a way they understand. For the first time, they see their own problems on screen in colour. It gives them a new perspective.”  

Dr White’s practice now uses six iTero scanners. He described to webinar participants the immediate and significant difference the very first one made and why: “We saw 33% growth over 12 months with the first iTero scanner we ever bought. The reason it worked was because it prompted greater case acceptance—more people said yes to larger treatment plans. Digital tools impress patients; they create stories. The sheer act of showing patients their problems and the solutions onscreen blows their mind and builds their confidence in you.” 

In fact, iTero Element intra-oral scanners feature visualisation capabilities designed to support chairside conversations, increase engagement, and build trust with patients. Proprietary tools such as Invisalign Outcome Simulator Pro, available for the iTero Element Plus series, help patients view their potential future smile in a convincing and lifelike way. Empowered by the latest advanced algorithms, the 3D dentition, viewed with in-face visualisation, provides a realistic image of the patient’s planned smile, and translates into proven increased treatment acceptance: general practitioners’ patients who experience Invisalign Outcome Simulator Pro in-face visualisation accept Invisalign treatment at twice the rate of patients who only see a 3D model. 

In demonstration, Dr White used the example of a patient who arrived at his practice wanting new veneers, but did not have any posterior teeth. The iTero scan revealed periodontal problems and showed the patient the need for posterior teeth. She did not want a removable solution, so Dr White and his team were able to treat her with a fixed solution on dental implants. He expanded on this: “Like in this case, what we’ve discovered time and again through this process is that there’s a co-discovery going on and that the best idea in the world is always the patient’s idea… as they ask questions and come up with the solutions, they end up with something that they wanted, not something we told them they needed. And that is massive!” 

For streamlining the whole treatment experience for patients, the benefits of scanning versus bitewing radiography are obvious. A clinical study published in the Journal of Dentistry in January 2022 demonstrated that the iTero Element 5D imaging system with iTero near-infrared imaging technology is more sensitive than bitewing radiography in detecting early enamel lesions and comparable in detecting dentinal lesions. The study validated and further demonstrated the significant benefits of the iTero Element 5D imaging system as an aid in the detection and monitoring of interproximal carious§ lesions above the gingiva without harmful radiation.** Co-author Dr Peggy Bown shared her experience: “As a current user of the iTero Element 5D imaging system, participating in the study was very beneficial to me. I could further see the clinical value of the iTero Element 5D imaging system through its high sensitivity at detecting early enamel lesions and ease of use. Having one system, one scan and one tip eliminates the need for multiple devices and repetitive sterilisation and minimises the use of harmful radiation.” 

The involvement of the wider practice team, including treatment coordinators and hygiene therapists, helps to build patient trust. When Cat Edney, a dental therapist from London in the UK, started using the iTero Element 5D imaging system, she began having more in-depth conversations with her patients. She noticed that they were looking at their mouths and self-diagnosing, feeling that there was something wrong, and the scanner gave her the opportunity to show them their mouths and demonstrate the changes that they had picked up on. 

“When you take your patient out of the dentist’s chair and put them in contact with a treatment coordinator, a dental hygienist or a therapist, the conversation often changes,” Edney said. “Patients act and speak differently when they’re speaking to a different member of the team. Team members are well placed to build patients’ profiles by assessing, explaining, and communicating with patients and maximising their awareness of their dental needs thanks to digital tools. With the iTero scanner, we can take screenshots of the treatment and annotate these so that the whole team can see what discussions there have been. This is a key feature that facilitates communication, making it easier to answer questions from patients if they know what is planned for them.” 

Dr White concluded that this new way of working also has other benefits. Creating time for a digital scan enables automated diagnostics and builds a bank of data per patient as well. “Scans equal history and that equals loyalty. We’ve now got circa five years of scans for some of our patients. It creates a bond with your patient that they won’t want to lose,” he said. 

To learn more about the Digital Excellence Series and access the free webinars, please visit www.iTero.com. 

Editorial note:

* As of 30 June 2022, iTero scanners have been used in more than 14 million restorative case scans, including crown, bridge, and custom implant cases, and in more than 66 million iTero orthodontic case scans, according to data on file at Align Technology. 

Accuracy is defined as a combination of trueness and precision tested on different substrates and under different lighting conditions for crown preparation and full-arch scanning. Based on the results of 12 peer-reviewed studies conducted between 2018 and 2020. Data on file at Align Technology as at 20 November 2020. 

Based on over 115,000 Invisalign Outcome Simulator Pro simulations globally, according to data on file at Align Technology as at 20 June 2023. Invisalign Outcome Simulator Pro is only available for the iTero Element Plus series. 

§ Based on a multisite clinical study conducted in real-world settings comparing iTero near-infrared imaging technology of the iTero Element 5D to bitewing radiographs (n = 3,502 posterior proximal tooth surfaces out of 5,796 proximal surfaces in 102 patients) as a tool in aiding in detection and diagnosis of interproximal caries above the gingiva. Data on file at Align Technology as at 10 February 2021.

** Data on file at Align Technology as at 4 December 2018. 

Align Technology Digital dentistry Exocad Intra-oral scanners Itero Patient communication

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