Cat Edney on why a digital scanner is vital for dental therapy

Dentistry visited dental hygienist and therapist Cat Edney at Greenwich Dental Health, who explained why a digital scanner is so crucial to her work. 

Why should dental practices have a digital scanner?

I think practices should really use a digital scanner because it is the ultimate communication tool for our patients.

It opens up a whole world of opportunities – for example, being able to show our patients a visual of their mouths in high definition right there and then in the room while they’re having their consultation. It makes it easier to communicate with our patient and explain to them what’s going on in their mouths.

That way, they have a true understanding of what they’re facing with their dental health.

I really believe that education is the basis of prevention in dentistry. That’s really why practices should use scanners from the very start of the consultation but also throughout their patients’ treatment process.

How has the iTero scanner benefitted you in practice?

Using the iTero digital scanner really improves my patient communication. I have an ambition to scan every patient that comes into my surgery where I’ll carry out a descriptive exam.

I will scan every tooth individually and explain to the patient what I can see. I’ll also make sure that I position the scanner so the patient can see the screen as well.

The reason for doing this is that it really improves their understanding if they can visualise their mouth and their teeth. For example, if there’s an amalgam filling with a small fracture or if a little bit of enamel is missing around the outside – they can now see exactly what I’m talking about.

I believe that every consultation should start with a scan. I feel that way because having a scanner is a really fantastic communication tool with our patients. We can get a patient in and show them so much information about their mouth all while bringing the patient into the conversation. We can connect with them on a completely different level.

Why should every consultation start with a scan?

When I scan my patients, I will ask them to look at the scanner and at every single tooth that I’m scanning, all while explaining to them what they are seeing.

This is a really great way of educating my patients.

As that scan progresses, the patient is often asking more questions, engaging or interested in what they have to talk about with their mouths.

We would then use different tools as the scan and the appointment progresses. For example, I may use a tool to be able to look at the way they bite together. We might be able to look at their occlusion and see if there’s any hard spots or high spots.

We can also look at things like misalignment, if there’s any tartar calculus inflammation. This is just, again, adding to the education for my patient.

What are some of your favourite tools of the iTero scanner?

When a patient comes in to me, we have a few tools with the iTero scanner that we like to use and show them during their appointment.

One of the really interesting points of the digital scanner is the Time Lapse tool. When every patient comes to your practice and has had a scan, if they then come back, you’ll be able to use the two consecutive scans and be able to see if there’s been any changes.

The Time Lapse tool is a really fantastic way of understanding if wear is progressing, if there’s any erosion that’s getting worse, if inflammation has improved, but also if a patient feels that there might be something different about their mouth – you’ll be able to confirm or deny if there’s been movements or changes.

The other tool that we use is the occlusion exam – here we can look at patient’s bite and any areas that might be liable to wear or fractures.

And also I really enjoy using NIRI technology in order to look at our patient’s teeth and visualise the structure of the tooth. It helps to understand if there’s any incidental inter proximal caries forming on our patient’s teeth before we’ve even had to take any radiographs.

Is your iTero scanner used by yourself or do others in your practice use it?

The reason that I feel that the whole team should get involved in using the iTero scanner is that quite often when the scanner is left in the dentist surgery and it might only be used for Invisalign treatment or the restorative cases, the patients aren’t getting the full digital experience.

When a team starts taking the scans of every patient in the practice, you find that more patients become engaged. You can also use these scans for so much more than just a restorative case or promoting Invisalign treatment.

You’re using it to show the patient that you really care about their oral health and the future of their mouth.

What is NIRI and what are some of the particular benefits of this technology?

NIRI is Near Infrared Imaging Technology, and it the most amazing tool that I love to use with my Itero scanner.

What it does is it allows me to visualise the structure of the tooth, but also if there’s any inter proximal caries starting to form on my patient’s dentition, it’s 60% more sensitive than radiographs.

So those very early initial lesions that we can fix and we can improve just with better oral hygiene or maybe with minimally invasive resin techniques, we can now educate our patients on without having to take radiographs.

Using this means that I can educate my patients to perform some treatment and then scan again to be able to monitor, see whether or not the treatment has worked, but also see if the patient’s home care has improved their outcomes.

Why is digital dental therapy such an exciting prospect?

For a dental therapist, digital dental therapy is such an exciting prospect. Not only does it aid this communication with my patient, but there are so many things that I can do for my patient.

Having had the scan so we can check misalignment, we can check occlusion and we can have a look at recession. We can also monitor the progression of any lesions, recession or concerns that we have with our patients’ teeth.

By having that scan, it also means that I have a record of my patient for the future. I can go back into my files and have a look at my patient scans later on. It’s fantastic for planning and it helps discussion with my colleagues.

Having a scan of my patient means that they don’t need to come back for a records appointment if they do decide to progress with treatment.

It means that we’re reducing surgery time while also still having a fantastic record of our patient. The other thing I like to do at the end of my appointment is close that appointment with the ‘wow’ factor. I like to show my patients the Invisalign Outcome Simulation just so they can get an idea of what their teeth might look like if they happen to decide to have Invisalign treatment.

Patients often whip out their phones, want to take a photograph of what their teeth look like straightened, and quite often I find that they’re talking to their partners.

So even if they don’t come in and decide they want their teeth straightened, their partners, their friends and their colleagues often do!

How would you feel if your digital scanner was taken away from you?

If my iTero scanner was taken away from me tomorrow, I would feel such a great sense of loss. But the loss would be mainly for my patients. I think the iTero scanner can be used for such exciting things like Invisalign treatment and restorative cases.

But most importantly, it’s for the communication with our patients. It would be such a shame if patients missed out on that amazing experience where they understand their dentition and are able to really visualise what’s going on in their mouth.

I really feel that education is at the heart of preventative dentistry. I really couldn’t imagine working without my scanner. I would be lost without it.

For more information or to request a demo of an iTero intraoral scanner, visit

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