Are braces in your future? Then dental impressions are too. In fact, in the United States alone, about 4 million people have braces at any given time — and it’s a safe bet that every one of them began treatment with impressions, or molds, of their teeth.
Impressions provide your orthodontist with a 3D model of your bite, helping them plan a treatment aimed at getting you the results you want.
For years, having impressions made meant biting down on a hard, plastic tray filled to the brim with thick, gooey putty — not the most pleasant experience, for sure. At Freedom Orthodontics, Brendan D. Smith, DDS, MS, and his team use digital impressions for their patients in Cedar Park, Texas, so they don’t have to deal with uncomfortable putty impressions.
Here’s how digital impressions work — and why we prefer them over putty molds.
Having your teeth straightened is one of the best things you can do for your oral health, and your appearance and confidence as well. Straighter teeth are easier to clean and care for, and that means there’s less risk of getting cavities or other tooth or bite problems. But in order to straighten your teeth, Dr. Smith and his team need a plan. That plan begins with a model of your teeth and your bite pattern.
Every orthodontic treatment plan is unique, based on the patient’s individual bite characteristics. Each tooth needs to be moved individually, yet all the teeth need to be positioned so they work together to bite and chew. It’s a fairly complex process. Your impressions provide a kind of roadmap that shows how each tooth needs to move to come into ideal alignment.
While traditional impressions use a hard-setting putty that you bite into, digital impressions use a special intraoral scanner that’s designed just for orthodontists and dentists. The scanner itself is shaped like a wand. Dr. Smith uses the scanner to capture images of the inside of your mouth, including your teeth, gums, and palate (the roof of your mouth).
Those images are fed into a computer, and special software uses the images to create an extremely accurate, three-dimensional replica of your mouth. This digital impression is stored on a computer, so Dr. Smith can reference it throughout your treatment.
Digital impressions offer benefits for patients and providers:
From a patient perspective, the main benefit of digital impressions over traditional impressions is comfort. Traditional impressions can be quite uncomfortable with their large, plastic trays and sticky putty.
The long, hard sides of the tray extend far back in your mouth, initiating a gag reflex in many patients. Plus, while the putty itself is easily removable, it can leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth.
The intraoral scanner uses a slim wand — no trays or putty, and no gagging. The scan itself is completed in just a few minutes. There’s no mess and no taste to worry about, and that means a more relaxing, pleasant experience for you.
Putty impressions create what’s known as a “negative impression” of your teeth. To see how your teeth really look, that impression needs to be filled with another clay-like material to form the 3D “positive” mold — the way your teeth really look. All that modeling allows for tiny errors and imperfections that can interfere with your treatment.
Digital impressions are free from those tiny errors, relying solely on the images captured during the scan. Since orthodontic treatment is unique to every patient, beginning with the most accurate data is essential for getting the best results.
Digital impressions are stored on a computer, so Dr. Smith can share them with the dental lab or fabricator right away. Faster transmission of your image data means your braces or aligners can be made more quickly, so you can start (and finish) treatment sooner.
Plus, keeping those images on the computer lets Dr. Smith access them easily throughout your treatment, so he can reference them as needed.
Putty and plastic trays used in traditional impressions wind up in the landfill eventually. Digital impressions are captured with a scanner and stored on a computer, so they don’t add to the waste stream.
Digital impressions rely on the most advanced technology, and that means they’re not available at every practice. As a top-rated orthodontist in Cedar Park, Texas, Freedom Orthodontics is committed to providing state-of-the-art care and customized treatment plans for patients of all ages.
If you’d like to learn more about digital impressions or find out how braces could improve your smile and your oral health, call our office or request an appointment online today.