In recent years, the concept of digital impressions has revolutionized the technique by which dentists create dental restorations for patients. A digital impression is actually a virtual scan that creates a detailed map of your teeth. 

Dentists can now create computer-generated virtual models of the soft and hard tissues of the mouth. Lasers and other optical scanning devices are used in the process. 

Dentists use this digital model to view the patient’s teeth on a computer screen instead of conventional methods such as a mirror or taking a mold or an x-ray.  

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This impression is then shared by the dentist with the laboratory where dentures, crowns, bridges, and other restoration models could be prepared quickly in an accurate manner.

Today, these impressions are being used for just about every type of case – from implant dentistry to restorative dentistry to orthodontics and more.

Digital Impressions – Clinical Applications

These impressions today uses cutting-edge technology that allows dentists to create a virtual, computer-generated replica of the soft and hard tissues in the mouth. The technology uses lasers and other optical scanning devices. 

Today these impressions are also referred to as optical scans. They are fast-moving in the direction of taking over the use of conventional dental impressions.

Digital technology is capable of capturing clear and highly accurate impression data in just a few minutes. On the other hand, patients find the use of traditional impression materials inconvenient and messy.

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You will find these impressions easier as the impression information is transferred to a computer and is used to create restorations, often without the need for stone models.

There are few questions that might arise. Are these impressions worth the investment? Are they really that much better of choice than traditional impressions? And will they help you practise better dentistry?

The answer is yes. These impressions today are offering amazing possibilities for dentists, from better restoration outcomes to better patient experience.

Types of Digital Impression Technology

There are primarily two different types of digital impression technology solutions that dental professionals can integrate into patient care. 

One type captures the images as digital photographs that provide a series of images that can be used by dentists and dental laboratories. The second type captures images as digital video. 

In addition, you can capture images using lasers or digital scanning. Digital optical scanners are safe and highly accurate, but your teeth need to be powder-coated with a special spray before scanning. This is done to ensure all parts of the impression are recorded accurately and properly.

On the other hand, laser scanning uses concentrated light that is also safe and highly precise. It smoothly captures all of the details of your teeth and gum while eliminating the need to hold unpleasant, distasteful material in your mouth. 

Benefits of Digital Impressions

You would surely argue that the benefits of these impressions are not worth the pain of change. These impressions in dentistry significantly increase productivity, efficiency, and accuracy. It allows your dentist to email the virtual impression to the lab rather than send a traditional impression or stone model via regular mail. Also, your dentist can use these impressions to make same-day dentistry restorations. This speeds up the patient treatment process and reduces the need for multiple clinic visits.

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These impressions have proven to have a higher clinical success rate. When compared to traditional impressions, they are more popular. Digital workflows increase efficiency by streamlining the production of restorations and reduce the need for remakes. 

Moreover, digital scans will not degrade, is reusable, easily stored with your other digital patient files for a long period. Furthermore, these impressions create a better patient experience as it eliminates the need to bite into a tray of impression material, several times during the course of multiple appointments.

Other Benefits of Digital Impressions

  • These impressions require less chair time.
  • The technique improved image/impression quality for better-fitting restorations.
  • It provides you with a more comfortable, easy experience and also to the dental team.
  • Dentists can avoid using distasteful impression materials that cause some people to gag.
  • The completion of the scanning process of the restoring teeth takes only four to five minutes.
  • These impressions reduce the possibility of impression-taking errors. 
  • You will appreciate the new technology and state-of-the-art dental care. The overall experience is more engaging. Moreover, you will be better informed about your treatment process as you can see the impressions on the screen.
  • Storing of the digital impression is easier for an indefinite period, in less space, contributing to efficient recordkeeping.
  • Green dentistry and eco-friendly aspects are also better in the case of these impressions. It eliminates the need for disposable plastic trays and impression materials, which otherwise would be polluting the environment. On the other hand, elimination of digital data can be achieved with the click of a delete button.

Dental Digital Impression Systems

Dental digital impression systems are typically designed to capture the intraoral scans of your teeth and gingival tissue. The scan generates a 3D digital model that is for CAD/CAM dentistry. 

These high-tech systems are growing in popularity as compared to systems used for conventional impressions. They have several benefits – they simplify the impression process, decrease procedure time. They also increase accuracy, and enable digital integration with dental laboratories. 

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These impressions eliminate your discomfort of using impression materials. Moreover, the 3D digital models created are highly accurate and detailed, ideal for the precise diagnosis of any dental issue. The technology captures images using safe, non-invasive imaging technologies. 

These these impressions are extensively used for both restorative dentistry and orthodontic dentistry

The scans(final impression) are ready almost instantly, in a very short span of time, which are then sent directly to a dental lab. The images could also be sent to a CAD/CAM system without the need to pay for shipping. 

If you are not already using a digital impression system, find out more about this modern technology. It would be a great opportunity for you to include this technique in your dental practice. It could help increase your patient comfort, decrease clinical errors and reduce the time it takes to complete a case.

Digital Impressions Vs Traditional Impressions in Dentistry

These impressions have huge advantages over traditional impressions.

For the patient, taking the dental impression in a traditional way can be quite unpleasant. Though there are no needles involved, you need to wait for several minutes, with teeth clamped in place while the alginate material sets. If you are a person with a strong gag reflex, you might struggle during the entire procedure.

Traditional impression-taking generally involves multiple materials and several steps. As it is a highly delicate and skilled process, there are more chances of introducing human error. There could also be material defects such as air bubbles, voids, improper setting or distortions.

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Digital impression systems eliminate much of the labor and guesswork associated with traditional impressions. This in turn helps to reduce or eliminate errors. At the same time, they increase time savings, both during your impression appointment and also during delivery of the restorations.

Digital impression devices just require only one visit. In most cases, it eliminates the need for a return visit to collect the restoration, which is directly sent to the dentist online. 

Patients today have started to prefer digital dentistry, as it minimizes their discomfort associated with traditional impressions. Moreover, these impressions are easier to store because they do not consume too much space.

Digital Impression Procedure

Your dentist captures an image of a tooth/teeth preparation after anesthetizing the area and freeing it from saliva and blood. 

The teeth are dusted with titanium dioxide powder in order to scan both arches and the bite. Some advanced systems allow dentists to create a powder-free, three-dimensional image of the damaged teeth.

The digital impression is captured by moving the ward over the surface of your tooth. 

Few of the digital impression systems come with a chairside monitor. The advantage being the impression image is displayed while the image is captured.  

While few other systems depend on the point and click capture. Images have to be pieced together in order to generate your final digital impression.

Your dentists can enlarge and manipulate it for enhanced detail while reviewing the real-time electronic image. 

The system allows any kind of mistakes to be identified and corrected on-screen before sending the electronic digital impression to the dental laboratory or other dental CAD/CAM system. 

Digital impression systems digitally record the affected tooth and adjacent teeth in the arch or quadrant. The electronically transmitted data reaches the dental lab in minutes  after capture for use in restoration fabrication. 

Digital chairside systems that record these impressions use the recorded data within the dental office to design, mill and deliver the final restoration in a single appointment.

Digital Impressions Process in Steps

  • As a first step, your teeth are cleared of blood and saliva and dusting with titanium dioxide powder. 
  • In the next step, an intraoral wand captures a series of digital images or videos. The ward is inserted into your mouth and moved over the surface of the restoration tooth. 
  • In the third step, digital impression software pieces the videos or images together within seconds. It then displays the impression image on a chairside screen.
  • Your dentist reviews the digital images and verifies it for the accuracy of the scan.
  • Your dentist will send these impressions to the dental laboratory. In the lab they will use it for creating your restorations such as dentures, crowns, and bridges.

Are Digital Impressions Really the Better Choice?

Yes. Dental experts believe that intraoral scanners are going to be the wave of the future. Intraoral scanning for digital impressions is a rapidly progressing technology today. These scanners are cheaper than before, are more easily available and are also easier to use. It is providing dentists with new capabilities for enhanced patient care. With advanced features, this technology is changing the way dentistry could be accomplished.