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ADA reveals new insights into expanding use of intra‑oral appliances

Increases in the range and applications of intra-oral appliances have led to more than one-third of US dentists providing them to patients on a daily basis, according to fresh research from the American Dental Association. (Image: Elizaveta Galitckaia/Shutterstock)

Wed. 11. January 2023


CHICAGO, US: Expanded applications for intra-oral appliances have led to many US dentists providing them to their patients on a regular basis. Fresh research from the American Dental Association (ADA) has revealed a number of insights concerning the category, such as that conventional fabrication methods remain more popular than digital ones.

The information was gathered from a survey of 286 members of the ADA Clinical Evaluators Panel. The ADA said that an increase in the number of conditions for which intra-oral appliances could be used as a treatment option has led to a greater range of appliances being used and expanded fabrication options for them.

Even when removable partial dentures were excluded, the vast majority (88%) of respondents said that they provided intra-oral appliances to their patients. The survey showed that 38% provided them on a daily basis, that 42% provided them at least once a week and that 16% provided them a few times per month. Just 3% of respondents said that they provided intra-oral appliances as seldomly as several times per year.

The appliances most commonly offered by respondents were bleaching trays (88%), followed by flipper or Essix retainers (83%), splints (81%), athletic mouth guards (72%), orthodontic retainers (60%), fluoride trays (56%) and clear aligners (55%). In terms of the fabrication process, 72% of dentists engaged dental assistants in impression taking and model fabrication. Laboratory technicians fabricated appliances in 76% of cases, and most dentists (97%) were involved in delivering appliances to patients.

How is digital technology impacting the use of intra-oral appliances?

The ADA said that, despite an expansion of applications and workflows for intra-oral appliances, conventional fabrication was still popular with most dentists. “The results […] suggest a mix of conventional and digital intra-oral appliance fabrication workflows is in use, with conventional methods outnumbering digital methods by approximately four to one for impressions, models, and fabrication methods,” the association wrote. When asked what changes had taken place over the last five years in their clinics with regard to appliances, 56% mentioned intra-oral scanning, 43% said that the range of appliances had increased, 36% listed digital workflows and 34% said 3D printing.

Nearly all (90%) respondents had gained their competency with intra-oral appliances through continuing education courses, 84% through dental studies, 55% by accessing print or web-based media and 32% while undertaking a residency.

Dr Kevin Frazier, co-author of the report, commented in a press release that the results showed that intra-oral appliances were becoming “a routine part of dental practice” and that applications and workflows related to fabrication were increasing. “There is likely to be ongoing and expanding interest in relevant learning opportunities about technologic advances and the increasingly diverse list of applications for intra-oral appliances,” Dr Frazier summarised.

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