Align Technology has excelled by creating a multi-functional, intuitive, advanced and accurate scanner. The scanner has been well received by the dentist and impressive to the patient.


INTRODUCTION
Digital methods are rapidly transforming the dental profession, with new technology being introduced almost daily. Clinicians are constantly looking for ways to improve their practice workflows and efficiency, and it seems as if utilizing digital methods over traditional analog methods may help with this endeavor. When pondering a digital practice workflow, one of the first purchases that a clinician would most likely make is a digital intraoral scanner.

Intraoral scanners have been used in dentistry since the late 1970’s, with the first versions being a scanner and mill combination. These systems have seen improved success and adoption over the years. More recently, scanners are being used as a stand-alone device to replace analog impression-taking techniques. Through multiple manufacturers, technological advancements, increased capabilities, and improved accuracy, scanners have become a staple amongst the profession.

Align Technology (San Jose, CA) has been at the forefront of technological advancement with the iTero line of scanners. The iTero scanner was originally designed and manufactured by Cadent and acquired by Align Technology in 2011. The iTero scanner was the first restorative stand-alone scanner. It is an open architecture system and allows for communication with multiple CAD/CAM based systems. Thousands of laboratories accept the scans generated from the iTero platform. The scans can be used for multiple clinical implications in dentistry. In addition, the iTero scanner does have chairside mill connectivity, allowing the dentists to produce indirect restorations in-office, if so desired.

In an effort to drive continued progress improvement Align has endeavored to bring hardware and software innovations that continue to build on their strong foundation of user and patient experience.


ABOUT THE PRODUCT
In May of 2018, Catapult Education was engaged by Align Technology to evaluate the iTero Element 2 intraoral scanner. This scanner was released in spring of 2018 and is the most improved cart-based scanner in the iTero family.

The claimed improvements over previous technology include:

  • Next generation processor, which was designed designed to improve start up time and scan speed.
  • High-definition visuals with a larger 5" monitor and 16:9 widescreen viewing format.
  • Uninterrupted scanning via the addition of a rechargeable battery, allowing the system to be moved without unplugging. With a fully charged battery, the user can scan for 30 minutes without having to plug in for power.
  • Ergonomic wand placement by placing the wand in the center of the screen, rather than the side.
  • Stunning color image
  • Smarter scanning by improving the touchpad on the wand to minimize the use of the actual screen.

THE EVALUATION
This evaluation was performed over a six month period by six members of Catapult Education. Founded by Lou Graham, DDS in 2007, Catapult Education is comprised of various Key Opinion Leaders and teaching professionals throughout the United States and Canada. These professionals are well versed in many aspects of dentistry and have extremely unique interests in their individual practices. There was no compensation to these professionals for their evaluation of this line of products. Align Technology did not compensate the evaluators for conducting the product evaluation.

The vast majority (5/6) of the evaluating clinicians had previous experience with other scanners in the marketplace. Three had previous experience with previous versions of iTero. Other scanners that the clinicians had experience with included the 3M True Definition, Trios (3Shape), Dental Wings intraoral scanner, and CEREC. Only one evaluator had no prior intraoral scanning experience. Several defined areas were reviewed at each of the two stages of this evaluation. The evaluation was performed at three and six months, these will be referred to as “INITIAL” and “FINAL” for the results.


THE RESULTS
Improved scanning experience compared to previous experience: The responses were overwhelmingly favorable. Most evaluators with previous experience mentioned that it was better or far better than their previous experiences. Only one evaluator mentioned that the experience was comparable to previous experience. The improvements commented upon were speed, screen size, and ease of data capture. Many evaluators wished for a slightly smaller wand size to make certain areas accessible. The wand cord was also noted as a potential improvement, as it crosses the patient during scanning. With those areas being mentioned, it was also noted that additional training could help overcome any concerns.

iTero Element ScanningThe iTero Element 2 offers an improved scanning experience for clinicians with an easy-to-see screen and faster scanning speed.

Perceived improvement to scan speed, accessibility, and completeness of scans: Most of the evaluators perceived that the improved design was favorable for scan speed and completeness of scans. The evaluators all liked the scan speed, and it was even mentioned that this scanner captures data faster than competitor scanners. The accessibility of the wand was met with mixed reviews as certain areas were still hard to access due to the wand size.

Bug free interface: The results were once again favorable to the new design. Of note, the prescription and workflow were noted to be favorable. The system was noted to be “bug free”. It was also noted to be favorable that the scans can be manipulated by touch and shared with our patients easily from all angles. One evaluator commented that the system was “near perfect”. It was mentioned that a single scan, as opposed to individual prep scans, would be preferred. It was also noted by an evaluator that the overall image clarity could be improved.

Desirable wand cradle location: The cradle of the new iTero Element 2 was moved to the front center of the scanner below the screen. The previous version had the cradle on the side of the screen. Overall, the new cradle position was found to be favorable. The cradle was found to be easy to clean, easy to use, and it was easy to move the scanner with the new position.

Convenience of new battery pack: Another addition to the newly designed scanner is a battery pack to allow usage of the scanner without an electrical outlet. Upon setup of the scanner, the battery pack was found to be easy to install. It was found that the battery pack improves the mobility and efficiency of the scanner. It was also found that the battery pack would last for a sufficient number of scans. It is important to note that the evaluators used an outlet for the majority of the scans; however, the evaluators unanimously mentioned that the battery pack would improve mobility of the scanner.

Improved visualization with larger screen size: This increased screen size was found to be favorable by all evaluators. The doctor with no previous scanning experience even mentioned that he “loved” the screen size. Two doctors also noted that the improved screen size helped both the clinician and the patient to visualize the scans.

Modern, technology-forward design: Following a specific evaluation of the new screen, the overall design was evaluated. The appeal of the new design was overwhelmingly favorable. There were only positive comments regarding the design. A comment that sums up the findings regarding the overall design is as follows: “The system is very modern and appropriate for today's dental world. It is nice to look at, and patients notice it immediately.”

Profound impact on workflows: 100% of the evaluators felt that this scanner would have a profound impact on their current workflows. The ease of use was a consistent reason for the anticipated impact. Evaluators also mentioned that the digital scanning was impressive, their staff was on board with the technology, and restorative workflows were more efficient overall. When asked about the biggest advantage, ease of use was once again a common answer. The system was even described as “easily adopted” and accurate.

Impressive patient experience: The evaluators were asked about their patients’ perceptions regarding the scanner and new workflows. Once again, 100% of the evaluators reported their patients being impressed. It was reported that the patients “loved the experience,” they “didn’t gag,” and were overall “wowed” by the technology. This is huge for new technology!

iTero Element PatientThe iTero Element 2’s large screen makes it ideal for discussing cases with patients.

Suggested improvements: The wand size was certainly a common theme that the evaluators felt could be decreased to improve the scanner. The cord was also mentioned as a hindrance by one evaluator as well.

Plan to purchase following evaluation: All of the evaluators plan on incorporating THIS technology into their practices. The general perception was that the advancements were enough to warrant the purchase. The evaluators also, unanimously, admitted that they will recommend this scanner to their colleagues. Improved features, speed, accuracy, and educational capabilities were all mentioned as attributes that would be shared when discussing the scanner amongst colleagues.


IN SUMMARY
With the digital age of dentistry in full effect, it is imperative that a newly released scanner be relevant and dynamic. Align Technology has excelled by creating a multi-functional, intuitive, advanced and accurate scanner. The scanner has been well received by the dentist and impressive to the patient. Previous users will always have desired improvements with each version released; however, it is extremely impressive that the “beginner” user was able to adapt so quickly and realize the potential. It is obvious through this evaluation that the iTero organization has done a great job by placing an excellent, improved scanner in the dental marketplace. It is no surprise that the iTero Element 2 is given the Catapult Education “Vote of Confidence”.

See iTero Element 2 featured in Dental Products Report.

To learn more about the iTero Element 2 scanner visit www.itero.com.