Traditional vs. Digital Impressions

Traditional vs. Digital Dental Impressions

The two types of impressions used in today’s dental offices are the traditional kits made using putty and the newer digital impression kits. Your office’s good technique yields the results you will get using either type. Keep reading for information that can help you decide which kind of impression you should offer your patients.

What Are Dental Impressions?

Dental impressions are used for restorative treatments and can be made in-house or at a lab. Making the perfect impression of a patient’s teeth has always proven to be a challenge, which is why multiple techniques have developed over the years. The materials and equipment needed for one type of dental impression can vary from another.

Polyether vinyl silicone (PVS) is one of the most common materials used to create traditional dental trays. This material is tasteless, strong and stable but still needs to be applied using with a good technique to obtain accurate results. You also have to mix the putty correctly, make the patient feel comfortable and trace its margins.

With digital technology, you have a precise alternative to traditional trays without the use of putty molds. Learning how to make digital impressions may take your staff longer to perfect but can result in enhanced office efficiency. Recent trends with this new method have led many practitioners to consider how traditional vs. digital dental impressions might impact the future of their industry.

Traditional Dental Impressions

Traditional impressions are made using a non-toxic dental putty such as PVS, which you pack into trays that slide into the patient’s mouth. The patient will bite down on the putty and wait for it to harden. Your staff can then prepare the completed molds for the patient’s restoration treatment and retake any molds if needed.

Your team can easily learn how to take precise dental impressions, and the process is relatively simple when working with most patients. It takes time for the restoration to harden, but the results you will get from making a traditional impression or using digital methods are about the same. Making traditional impressions using either plastic or metal trays is an effective method backed by extensive research studies and recent updates.

Benefits of Traditional Impressions

Traditional impressions have produced successful results long before digital technology was available. The benefits of traditional impressions include:

  • Accuracy: Even the full-arch impressions are highly accurate when the correct technique is applied.
  • Fewer investment costs: You can make traditional impressions without high-cost equipment or extended training sessions.
  • More proven successes: Traditional impressions have a longer track record of success than digital methods.

Drawbacks of Traditional Impressions

Traditional impressions also have disadvantages, including:

  • Impression retakes: A problem with the traditional method is the need to retake an impression if the restoration fits poorly. All offices eventually need to do retakes when using traditional impressions, but this issue should be rare for well-trained staff.
  • Patient tolerance: Some patients are uncomfortable with having the impressions taken. Their discomfort is sometimes the result of anxiety, having to repress their gag reflex, a medical condition or an aspect of the putty, like its texture. Many dental procedures can trigger anxiety, and you can usually help an anxious patient cope with getting the impressions.
  • A longer process: Making the impressions takes longer using traditional methods.

Digital Dental Impressions

Digital impressions were initiated by manufacturers interested in applying modern methods and technology to update routine dental procedures. This has become a popular procedure for patients and dentists, but the traditional procedure involving mouth trays continues to be relevant and is still widely practiced. Patients like that this method works without goopy putty, but as far as whether digital or traditional impressions are better, both have their advantages.

Digital technology is used to take scans of a patient’s mouth, and two types are currently possible:

  1. Digital impression technology: This technology captures  photographs of the patient’s mouth, which are configured by the computer and analyzed to generate a precise restorative treatment.
  2. Digital video: The technology takes a video of the patient’s mouth for a comprehensive view of the teeth.

This technology uses scans or lasers to record the images. Laser scans are highly accurate and work using concentrated light so the patient will be unable to feel them. Digital scanners require spraying the patient’s teeth with a special powder to ensure the most accurate possible recording, but they are also precise and safe.

After your staff takes the impression scans, you can send them to the lab digitally instead of mailing the impressions to an off-site location. This usually results in a shorter time starting the patient’s treatment and has resulted in the possibility of same-day smile restoration treatments.

Benefits of Digital Impressions

Many offices prefer the new method of taking digital impressions. It has several benefits, including:

  • Quicker turnaround times: Patients appreciate the time-efficient process and turnaround times for this method, which are better overall. The mouth scans can usually be completed in fewer than 10 minutes but may take less time, depending on the technology your office uses.
  • Patient comfort: Dental putty, hard mouth trays and other materials are unnecessary for digital impressions and might be better for patients who suffer from dental anxiety or who gag easily.
  • Quality: Digital impressions have high accuracy and typically produce well-fitted restorations.
  • Easier cleanup: This method works without mixing up a messy alginate.
  • Few processing errors: When you use digital technology to create the molds, it is unlikely that you will need to do retakes.
  • Use of digital file systems: These impressions are digitally created and stored paper-free, creating an overall more eco-friendly process than working with plastic trays.

Drawbacks of Digital Impressions

Digital impressions also come with drawbacks, particularly:

  • High investment costs: Making digital impressions tends to be more expensive than using traditional methods. Both the equipment and training costs are higher.
  • Lower accuracy for a full arch: Certain impressions have less accuracy than conventional impressions, especially the full arch. Impressions for crowns and short dental prostheses have about the same accuracy in comparison.
  • Large scanners: The intraoral scanners are often bigger than traditional impression trays and can seem intimidating to patients. You can reassure the patients that they will be unable to feel the scan, which is like someone shining a flashlight into the mouth.

Order Dental Supplies From ProDentUSA

Both traditional and digital impression trays have advantages and drawbacks, but the most important aspect of each is having the right tools and equipment to successfully conduct these procedures. Purchase from ProDentUSA for all your restorative dental equipment needs. If you have questions about our products, please contact us for information.