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Digital impressions have greatly improved the way dentists construct dental restoration plans for their patients. Digital impressions are virtual scans that essentially create maps of patients’ teeth. With this method, dentists can generate a computer-generated model of all the tissues in a mouth. This virtual model eliminates any traditional processes of examining a mouth, including using mirrors, taking molds, or looking at X-rays. Once a digital impression is taken using lasers and other optical scanning systems, the dentist can instantly send the image to the labs where restoration models can be made with less time and more accuracy.

How Are the Digital Impressions Created?

A digital impression can be made by compiling a series of digital photographs or digital video. Both techniques allow the digital impression machine’s software to record definitive measurements of the mouth and assemble all the various photographs to create a precise map of the patient’s mouth. This technology is also helpful for patients as they can usually view these maps and images while in the dental chair.

The Process from Beginning to End

  1. Dentists will first prep the patient by eliminating the mouth of blood and saliva. If the scanner is not powder-free, the dentist will also dust the patient’s teeth with specially formulated titanium dioxide powder.
  2. Using an intraoral wand, the dentist will take a series of digital images or videos by going into the mouth and moving the wand around the affected area.
  3. Within seconds, the digital impression software will compile the images or videos to display the impression image.
  4. The dentist will verify the accuracy of the scan by carefully examining it.
  5. Finally, the dental laboratory will receive the digital impressions to create the patient’s restoration materials (e.g., crowns and dentures).

How are the digital impressions taken?

The dentist will have to isolate the affected area of the mouth needing restoration by applying the contrast medium (assuming the scanner requires it). Once the dentist lightly dusts the area with powder contrast, they will take the digital scan of the affected tooth/teeth. Depending on the area’s size, this step can take anywhere between 30 seconds and two minutes. Once the scans are completed, the dentist will note the shade, coloring, and material needed to complete the restoration. Lastly, the digital scans will be sent to the laboratory where the restoration will be made.

Tips for Training Your Staff to Take Precise Impressions

Both dentists and dental assistants can go through digital impression training; however, this training must be hosted by the various digital impression systems’ manufacturers. Typically, these manufacturers will assign trainees to visit your office and teach the dental staff how to install and utilize the equipment. If needed, some manufacturers can offer offsite training for your team.  Either way, the staff will be certified and knowledgeable in administering digital impressions in just a few days.

If you are interested in learning more about digital impressions, please feel free to give Douglas Family Dentistry a call today.

Located at 10630 North Scottsdale Road, Douglas Family Dentistry serves families in Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, Paradise Valley, Glendale, and surrounding Arizona communities.  To schedule an appointment to discuss the dental procedures and services we offer, call our office today at 480-948-3680.