What are digital impressions?


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Digital impressions are virtual images, which are used by dentists to create incredibly accurate and detailed models of the mouth. Conventional dentistry employs putty-like materials to create physical, tangible moulds of the mouth, while digital impressions are virtual images, which can be seen on a monitor and transferred between dentists and technicians within seconds.

How is a digital impression created?

When a digital image is created, your dentist uses a scanning unit to generate 3D models, which appear on a screen; this may involve using a chair-side mobile scanner or a fixed scanner. The process is very quick and you won’t feel any pain.

How is a conventional impression created?

When a conventional model is create, you will be asked to sit in the dental chair and your dentist will place putty-like material in your mouth; they will then spread and shape the putty in your mouth to create an impression of your teeth and gums; this usually takes up to 10 minutes and it can feel unpleasant, especially if you have a sensitive gag reflex. Once the mould is finished, it will be left to set and then sent to the laboratory. 

When are digital impressions needed?

Impressions are predominantly used to create new dental restorations and carry out repairs to existing appliances or restorations; examples of scenarios that may require impressions include denture remoulds and repairs, creating a new gum shield for a rugby player and making a new crown, dental bridge or denture. The images can also be used to plan treatment

What are the benefits of digital impressions?

Digital impressions offer many benefits over traditional methods; the process is quicker, cleaner, less cumbersome and more accurate and you can also do more with the finished product, as images can be shared and sent between dental professional very easily.

There are two main types of digital impressions, including digital images and digital videos; these impressions are created using advanced digital or laser scanners. There are various different brands and models on the market and the four leading systems include CEREC by Sirona, Cadent iTero, E4D by D4D Technologies and 3M ESPE Lava COS (these models will be discussed in further detail in the ‘types of digital impression technology and popular systems’ article).

If you require a new restoration or you are undergoing treatment and your dentist is using impressions to plan your treatment, your dentist will explain what happens during the scan and ensure you understand exactly what is going on; scanning takes just a couple of minutes and there is no pain involved at all. If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask your dentist and they will be happy to help.  


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Guide to Digital Impressions and Scanning