Defining Dentistry: What is a dental impression?

By Dr. Salina Suy

dental IMPRESSIONSHappy December everyone! December means that Christmas is near, and I hope that you guys have had time to get a lot of your shopping done early. I started early this year because I realize how less stressful that is. I also prefer shopping in person, believe it or not!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and I hope to see you guys again in the New Year. I cannot believe 2020 is upon us! Thank you again for joining in on this months “Smile with Dr. Suy” column in our continuing series “Defining Dentistry.” This month’s column is on dental impressions.

What is a dental impression?

An impression is defined as an imitation of a person or thing; a dental impression is an impression of your mouth.

How are dental impressions taken?

There are only two ways impressions can be taken: physically and digitally. Physical impressions require a fitted tray and impression material. Depending on the procedure, the material is usually a putty-like mixture that sets hard over a period of time, usually 2 to 5 minutes. The tray is fitted in the patient’s mouth, material is laid in and then placed over the teeth. After the material is set, the tray with material will be taken out of the mouth and evaluated. This impression will be poured into a stone model or scanned later to become a 3D digital model.

Digital impressions are done with an intraoral scanner. The teeth must be dry for this procedure and the intraoral scanner is taken throughout the mouth as thousands of images are stitched together to create a 3D rendition of your mouth. The impression technique will depend on the procedure and your dentist.

Why would I need a dental impression?

Dental impressions allow dentists to evaluate your teeth outside of your mouth.

Dental impressions are taken for many reasons, which include but are not limited to:

— Diagnostic: Evaluation of your mouth using 3-D models to determine correct treatment planning

— Dentures: For hard and soft tissue models to set teeth with wax and fabricate final dentures

— Crown and bridge: For teeth or implant models to make fixed dental prosthetics that stay in the mouth

— Sleep apnea and other oral appliances: The mandibular repositioning device, occlusal guards, sports guards and bleaching trays all require full mouth impressions.

— Orthodontics: For the evaluation and fabrication of clear aligners to help straighten teeth

Hopefully this column has helped make a good impression on the field of dentistry.

As always, thank you for joining me in this month’s education series and hopefully we will learn more together next month. Feel free to contact me with questions and comments! Have some questions to ask me in person? Call for a free consultation — I look forward to meeting you!

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