Published on March 10, 2017, Updated on March 10, 2017
Gagging. Goop. Discomfort. Any of these words sound familiar when you think of the putty impressions you’ve had in the past? Times are changing, and digital impressions are becoming the new popular trend among dentists all over the country. Digital technology completely eliminates the need for the former tray and putty—polyvinyl siloxane (PVS)—impressions. Digital impressions have come a long way over the years. By replacing the gooey impressions of the past, our digital intraoral scanning system gives Dr. Hardy more control and more accurate impressions, while also giving his patients a more comfortable experience and real-time education about their own treatment. Before, it wasn’t uncommon to have a PVS (putty) impression done, wait for the product to come back from the lab and then have it fit incorrectly. Then the client (which means you) had to do the process all over again. Who has time for that? Try our new digital impression scanner at your next visit and we promise you won’t be disappointed.
For many years dentists have relied on physical molds to do “polyvinyl siloxane (PVS)” impressions. Those are fancy words for those gooey putty teeth impressions. You may have even had one of these impressions done at least once at your dental office. A dentist or dental assistant will mix special ingredients together to make a type of silicone putty to take an impression (or mold) of your teeth. These are usually for restorative dentistry purposes or making appliances such as retainers and TMJ guards. The ingredients that make the putty are mixed directly before the mold is fitted to your mouth, as the putty sets up and hardens quickly. Once the dental impression is set, the dentist has to remove it from your teeth, which may take a few tries depending on how long the material has hardened.
The putty usually comes in a blue, purple, or pink colors and can have a very basic or rubber taste to it. The molds are then mailed to a laboratory, where your physical impressions are made along with your dental appliance. The whole process can take several weeks from impression to final product. The PVS impression itself is not the most pleasant experience for a patient, but has been the technology for years. PVS impressions are still used in many dental offices today, whereas many more offices (such as ours) are adopting a digital alternative for making impressions.
When it comes to dental impressions, only the best impressions hold up in dentistry, and digital scanning technology seems to offer the most accurate and proficient way of making them. Instead of gooey putty and molds, digital impression technology creates an accurate impression of your teeth through a series of digital images.
The process usually goes like this: The dentist will clean your teeth and make sure they are dry from saliva or dental work. Your dentist will lightly dust your teeth with a dental powder (usually titanium oxide) so the scan pinpoints all areas of your teeth. Then, a device called an “intraoral wand” is placed inside a patient’s mouth and is moved alongside a patient’s teeth, taking digital images of the teeth, their shape, and the shape of the mouth. The images are captured using a very safe laser that you can’t even tell is there. The system will color any areas on the scan that lack information and your dentist will do the scans until all areas are covered. This will help the dentist to accurately capture the details of your arch, bite, teeth, and gums. (Note: some systems do not even require the powder to do the scan.) The system will also notify the dentist if there was any part of the mouth that was missed. Because everything is digital, this can all be done in a few short minutes.
The dentist will review the digital images and/or video and can quickly send them to a lab. Instead of taking days for a impression to arrive in the mail, the lab can receive your impression images and set to work immediately on your appliance. The typical process from impression to appliance usually takes 2 or more weeks, whereas with digital impressions, that process is cut down to 3-5 days. Certain impressions can be made the same day.
With digital scanning impressions:
Eventually, most dentists will transfer over to the digital side when it comes to impressions in dentistry. Patients who use digital impressions tend to have a more accurate fit for their dental restorations and for appliances such as TMJ guards and retainers. Studies with digital impression crowns vs PVS impressions showed an increase of up to 14% more accuracy in patients who received their appliances back from the lab. Many patients also saved up to 23 or more minutes in the office with the switch from PVS to digital. Couldn’t we all use more minutes in the day? We believe you will enjoy a much-improved patient experience with our digital scanning impression technology, especially now that there is no messy powder or putty involved. Call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics at (303) 223-0403 today to learn more or to get your own impression made!