By Anthony M. Puntillo DDS, MSD
Another annual meeting has come and gone. If you attended the recent international gathering of orthodontists in Philadelphia, it would be hard to argue against the expanding influence of technology on our profession. At this years’ meeting technology, as it has for the last several meetings, certainly played a prominent role on the convention floor. Philadelphia, however, showcased more than the just the vendors selling their latest “must have” equipment or systems. This year several of the lecture halls included significant discussions about the incorporation of technology into the clinical practice of orthodontics. The CTech committee, in fact, had a room for an entire day dedicated to that exact topic.
On the convention floor, I am sure most noticed the proliferation of the intra-oral scanning options. Only two years ago at the 2011 Chicago meeting, I can recall one company displaying an intraoral scanning machine. This year there were at least a dozen vendors. The effect of this increased competition has led to significant reductions in costs, improved technology, and increased acceptance of the machines into clinical practice. As more of these machines are put to use and practices become more comfortable with them, there is a natural progression toward impression-less practices.
I incorporated intraoral scanning into my practice two years ago and attended this year’s meeting with the intent of investigating the offering of three-dimensional printers. The ability to print plastic models would not only eliminate impressions from my practice, but also plaster. In Philadelphia, I found two such machines on display. Both units were selling at the meeting for around $40,000. As with any major investment, it is often difficult to know exactly when it is the “right” time to get in. Ultimately, the “right” technology decisions differ for each practice. For now, I have decided to wait on the purchase of a 3D printer and plan for the immediate future to continue to outsource the printing of my .stl files. You can bet, however, that I will be closely monitoring developments with these machines and when it is the “right” time for my practice I will be getting in.