The use of intraoral appliances is growing in dental practices, and dentists are offering more variety than just several years ago, according to an American Dental Association Clinical Evaluators (ACE) Panel report.
The report, published in the December issue of The Journal of the American Dental Association, includes the responses of 286 ACE Panel member dentists and found 88% of respondents provided patients with intraoral appliances other than removable partial dentures.
More than half of the respondents reported offering bleaching trays (88%), flippers or Essix retainers (83%), splints (81%), athletic mouthguards (72%), orthodontic retainers (60%), fluoride trays (56%), and clear aligners (55%). According to the study, the biggest changes to practice in the past five years with respect to intraoral appliances have been intraoral scanning and the increase in the variety of intraoral appliances in use.
Most dentists said they offer the appliances as treatment options for their patients daily or a few times a week.
Nearly all responding dentists indicated they were personally involved in delivering intraoral appliances to their patients, and 72% said their dental assistants were involved in the processes of taking impressions and making models.
Dentists educate patients about appliance use through multiple approaches, including speaking with them, providing them with printed materials, or showing them examples. Most said continuing education courses contributed to their own competency in providing intraoral appliances.
“With 88% of respondents providing intraoral appliances routinely and 90% having engaged in continuing education courses about their use, that indicates a trend that shows they are becoming a routine part of dental practice, with both increasing applications and improvements in workflows and fabrication technologies,” says Kevin Frazier, DMD, one of the report’s co-authors, in a release. “There is likely to be ongoing and expanding interest in relevant learning opportunities about technologic advances and the increasingly diverse list of applications for intraoral appliances.”
While applications for intraoral appliances have expanded, responses in the ACE Panel report suggest dentists use a mix of conventional and digital workflows to fabricate the appliances, with conventional methods outnumbering digital methods by about 4 to 1.