Digital Splints Today: Part 2

March 2, 2018 Stephen Malone DMD

Current digital splint technology requires workarounds to make it a feasible option for clinically exceptional dentistry. In Part 1 of this series, I described the challenges and opportunities of digital dental technology and explained some details of my preferred protocol. Here, I continue this explanation:

An Effective Digital Splints Protocol

In my practice, I mount digitally printed models using a centric relation record and a protrusive record for condylar inclination adjustments. This is just like we have done in the past with stone models. 

The lab technician can transfer this into the computer exactly as we have it in our hands. They do this with the use of a tabletop scanner. It’s important to note that the technician can now register original files for the impressions into position for the best accuracy. The greatest benefit today is the accuracy of these original scans (20-30 microns). 

The design portion comes next in this process. Communication with the technician can be done in real time online. My technician and I have been working with different settings in the software that give me the best chance of skipping the reline procedure patients don’t enjoy. 

I can also evaluate and do final adjustments on the mounted digital models and analog articulator. We have been successful about 80% of the time getting a splint that is rock solid and has an intimate fit on the occlusal surfaces. This is critical for fine-tuning adjustments and fracture resistance. 

If it ends up as an ill-fitting or loose-fitting splint, we can still reline just like we always have because it is a milled PMMA material (as dense as a denture tooth). 

Areas of Improvement for Digital Splints

My opinion at this time on digital splints is mixed:

Pro: We can produce a very high quality PMMA splint that lasts longer and generally gives the patient a better experience.

Con: We still need digital counterparts to essential analog skills that provide for all situations. 

Pro: I believe we will have printed materials that outperform current milled materials in the near future (this will lower the cost to produce splints). 

Con: It is frustrating that we are not getting better support from companies selling us  expensive equipment.

I am proud to be part of the Pankey family because our community encourages the use of technology to enhance good dentistry. 

Related Course

E2: Occlusal Appliances & Equilibration

DATE: June 22 2025 @ 8:00 am - June 26 2025 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 44

Dentist Tuition: $ 7400

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Stephen Malone DMD

Dr. Stephen Malone received his Doctorate of Dental Medicine Degree from the University of Louisville in 1994 and has practiced dentistry in Knoxville for nearly 20 years. He participates in multiple dental study clubs and professional organizations, where he has taken a leadership role. Among the continuing education programs he has attended, The Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education is noteworthy. He was the youngest dentist to earn the status of Pankey Scholar at this world-renowned post-doctoral educational institution, and he is now a member of its Visiting Faculty.

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Digital Splints Today: Part 1

February 28, 2018 Stephen Malone DMD

The new challenge facing us in dentistry is how to incorporate technology into our daily practice. Digital splints specifically are a subject I have been working on for about a year. 

We have had the technology available to mill a splint out of acrylic for a few years now. However, we have not had a good protocol that meets all our needs. 

Digital Splints: Challenges

Some of the problems we face are as follows:

1) Lack of digital articulators that make all of the movements we are able to with semi adjustable articulators, such as crossover transitions. 

2) Absence of centric relation record mountings in software on a computer.

3) No rotational path insertion we can achieve from relines in the mouth. 

4) Few materials that are as good or better than we have now.

I believe we are well on our way to solving these issues. The biggest problem I see is something Dr. Pankey was dealing with many years ago. He talked about how the majority of dentists are indifferent to good comprehensive care dentistry. Therefore, most of the manufacturers of our dental equipment and software are catering to a majority that does not share our own clinical demands. 

These companies give me answers like, “That sounds great doc but who will I be able to sell that to?” I think we have to find workarounds for now that will encourage development in these technologies. Keep in mind, all of the workarounds I will explain are in line with what we teach at the Pankey Institute. 

Digital Splints: Opportunities

We also need systems we can duplicate and teach without compromising the quality of care or experience for patients. I believe there is great potential for higher quality materials and great fitting splints without relines. These two potentials alone can create more value and better experiences for patients.

Today I have a protocol that is some digital and some analog. I intraoral scan our impressions with the TRIOS scanner. I believe most of the scanners on the market today work very well and produce very accurate files that can be printed into models. I also use the TRIOS because it communicates very well with the 3SHAPE units most labs use. 

Now that I have files and models I have to mount them. This is our first problem to solve. I still use an analog facebow or facial analyzer. I mount these models on an articulator like the Denar Mark 330 because this is an articulator model programmed into the 3SHAPE software. 

To be continued…

Related Course

E4: Posterior Reconstruction and Completing the Comprehensive Treatment Sequence

DATE: February 27 2025 @ 8:00 am - March 3 2025 @ 2:30 pm

Location: The Pankey Institute

CE HOURS: 44

Dentist Tuition: $ 7400

Single Occupancy with Ensuite Private Bath (per night): $ 345

THIS COURSE IS SOLD OUT The purpose of this course is to help you develop mastery with complex cases involving advanced restorative procedures, precise sequencing and interdisciplinary coordination. Building on…

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About Author

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Stephen Malone DMD

Dr. Stephen Malone received his Doctorate of Dental Medicine Degree from the University of Louisville in 1994 and has practiced dentistry in Knoxville for nearly 20 years. He participates in multiple dental study clubs and professional organizations, where he has taken a leadership role. Among the continuing education programs he has attended, The Pankey Institute for Advanced Dental Education is noteworthy. He was the youngest dentist to earn the status of Pankey Scholar at this world-renowned post-doctoral educational institution, and he is now a member of its Visiting Faculty.

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