A New Way to Make Dental Impressions

Dental Impressions:  Tyler, Texas

We have a new way to make impressions in our office whenever our patients need crowns and/or veneers.  It is a digital scanner like the one pictured above.

When we make a crown or a veneer we must first make an impression of the prepared teeth to send to the lab. From that impression, the lab creates a new porcelain tooth (teeth) so that it looks just like we want it to and it fits so well that patients think it belongs to them.

Traditionally we have used a type of impression material that we mix up and then flow it into what we call a “tray.” We then carefully place that tray full of “goop” into the patient’s mouth and over the teeth that we are going to replace. We hold it in place for three to four minutes while it “sets up.” That impression material is amazing and results in a very accurate impression, which is extremely important in dentistry.

But science marches on and digital imaging has come on the scene. As digital imaging has become more predictable, manufacturers have been trying to make it available for the dental office.

Unfortunately, the quest has been harder to perfect than anyone thought it would be. Impressions of teeth are tiny and they have to be perfect. The edges of the teeth have to show and the camera has to be small and easy to use inside the mouth. Early versions were bulky, cranky and wildly expensive, and often ended up as plant stands in the dental offices.

Finally, 3M developed an elegant solution and we decided to get it. Instead of taking still photos like other imaging units do, this model makes a movie. The computer inside the unit creates an image of the prepared tooth from that movie, using hundreds of slices of the movie. As you might imagine, the learning curve for us is difficult. After our unit was installed, we were given two full days of hands-on training.  For the time being, we are making our regular impressions plus a digital impression.

As we get better, we will be able to rely strictly on the new scanning unit. When that happens, our patients will have an even better experience when it comes time for us to make their impressions. The images will be processed quickly and can be sent to the lab via email, eliminating the need for packaging, postage, cross-country delivery time and possible lost packages. We will, therefore, be able to get a great result back from the lab in a shorter amount of time.