Will articulating paper be the next casualty of the digital revolution?

Technology continues to impact on dentistry at many levels and in many ways. Intraoral scanning is a current focus of this drive, whereby a 3-dimensional scanning wand is inserted into the patient’s mouth to record a digital impression. Intraoral scanning replaces the traditional impression taking process that is unpleasant for the patient and often inaccurate in its result. The history of digital dentistry is punctuated by such developments that replace traditional processes with more elegant, accurate and efficient digital alternatives. The eternal question in this new genre of dentistry, therefore, is what will technology replace next.

Digital occlusal analysis

Digital dentistry encompasses myriad technologies and aspects of dentistry, both on the clinical and laboratory sides.

One such technology is digital occlusal analysis. At a minimum, tools like the T-Scan® Novus replace articulating paper that captures a 2-dimensional snapshot of when teeth come together, with a full motion, 3-dimensional analysis that reveals the level and timing of force on individual teeth and the occlusal stability of the overall bite.

With T-Scan’s digital bite force data, clinicians can pinpoint occlusal interferences, quickly remove them and treat patients with greater accuracy than ever before. T-Scan is also a great visual aid that helps patients to better understand their occlusion and the treatments that may be necessary to balance bite forces.

Technological convergence

Intraoral scanning and occlusal analysis, together with 3D digital radiography and other methods of 3D scanning like laboratory bench-top scanners, act to transfer the analogue functions and dimensions of the body to the digital world.

Computer-Aided Design software is traditionally then used to process this digital data for output using computer aided manufacturing processes, like milling and grinding, 3D printing or laser sintering.

Digital diagnosis

One of the most exciting aspects of digital dentistry, however, is when digital data from more than one source is combined. Matching an intraoral scan with a corresponding 3D radiograph is one now common application used in digital diagnosis and treatment planning.

Another is intraoral scan data overlayed with digital occlusal analysis data. With the ability to import digital impressions into the arch model, the latest release of T-Scan Software makes obtaining and analyzing digital occlusion data easier than ever before. This convergence of technologies allows pinpoint occlusal contacts to be achieved as well as allowing interferences to be removed with ease. Patient communication and education is enhanced and revenue is maximised by increasing case acceptance, reducing remakes and eliminating multiple adjustment appointments.