How to Take a Dental Impression Without Gagging
Digital technology now allows patients to take dental impressions without gagging and without the ooey gooey mess of putty or plaster molds.
There’s just no good way to press a tray full of icky, sticky dental putty into your mouth and hold your teeth in place while it hardens. That’s one reason some dentists are saying goodbye to the unpleasant experience by switching to a more advanced method of taking dental impressions.
What Are Digital Impressions?
“Digital impressions take a 3D picture of a patient’s teeth. It’s very quick and completely painless,” says orthodontist, Elena Black, DDS, of Appalachian Orthodontics of Lynchburg in Lynchburg, Va.
Dr. Black uses a laser scanner system, which relies on a small intraoral wand with a camera and special software to take multiple images of the each tooth from various angles. The images are then combined to make a precise 3D model. During the process, the tooth can be viewed on a chairside monitor screen. One half of the screen allows the patient and dentist to view the tooth, while the other side of the screen shows the digital image. The digital imagery is so refined that it is even possible to detect areas of plaque on the teeth, according to Black.
Other digital scanner systems use a continuous video capture instead of compiling multiple images. This video imaging technology requires titanium-dioxide powder be applied to the teeth to prior to imaging.
What Are the Advantages of Digital Impressions?
Digital impression technology offers many benefits to both patients and dentists, including:
- Comfort – Because there are no messy molds, patients can have dental impressions taken without gagging. Impressions are taken using a small hand-held wand that fits comfortably in the mouth.
- Time – No more waiting for plaster or putty molds to dry. Digital images can be done quickly and can be easily stopped and started.
- Quality – Digital impressions are extremely accurate and reduce the risk of human error caused by movement and removal of the impression mold.
- Easy adjustments – When changes occur to a single tooth, such as the addition of a crown, new images of that tooth can be switched out with the old one, rather than requiring a new full-mouth impression.
- Electronic storage – Images can be stored electronically and are easily transferred. Digital impressions also eliminate the need for storage space of traditional molds.
- Safety – Digital impressions don’t require x-rays and can be used on patients of all ages.
Black says the newer technology has also come in handy at her orthodontic practice when it comes to replacing lost retainers. “College students who go off to school and lose or break their retainer can get in touch with me right away, and I can email their digital scan to the lab so that a replacement retainer can be made before the teeth shift.”
When Can Digital Impressions Be Used?
In addition to orthodontic impressions, digital technology can be used in preparation for crowns, bridges, veneers, implants and other dental procedures.
The Future of Digital Impression Technology
Only a limited number of dental clinics currently offer digital impressions. “The technology is fairly new. I’m the first orthodontist in my town to have it,” says Black. But according to information on the American Dental Association’s website, the new technology is here to stay.
The number of dental practices using intra-oral digital impressions is expected to grow. Equipment cost appears to be a major factor in the delay of switching over to the newer technology. But for most dental patients, the idea of taking a dental impression without gagging appears well worth it.