“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression,” said Will Rogers. But the multi-talented actor probably wasn’t talking about dental molds.
Traditionally, the only way to get a clear look at the shape, alignment, and positioning of a patient’s teeth was to fill a dental tray full of thick impression material, insert it into the patient’s mouth, and wait for it to set up. While mostly effective, it is no one’s favorite activity; traditional impressions can be messy, uncomfortable, and, for a few patients, a little too close for comfort with their gag reflex. The other bad news is that the accuracy of your impression depends not only on the skill of the technician, but also on the temperature and humidity of the air and the temperature of the water used to make the mix. All of these errors can add up and adversely affect the result.
“Dental impressions leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouths,” said Dr. Bill Crutchfield, an orthodontist in Chantilly, Virginia. “That’s one of the reasons why we don’t do them anymore. The more important reason, though, is because we have much better alternatives that allow us to see more, capture it more accurately, and do more with the information without torturing our patients.”
Dr. Crutchfield is referring to the high-resolution imagery technology now available in his practice, and in orthodontic practices around the country. Through 3-D digital imagery, more information can be captured, assessed and manipulated; instead of just getting the external tooth shape and position, now orthodontists have access to bone structures, jaw placement, bite, tooth movement, and airway. This eliminates those ghastly impressions, but also the need for multiple X-rays.
“In our practice, patient experience and patient results are two of the strongest guiding principles for our care,” adds Dr. Crutchfield. “Adding a comfortable and painless digital “impression” method is crucial to giving the best of both.”