It’s Time to Go Digital for Impressions
Marc Geissberger, DDS, MA, BS, CPT
Digital equipment exclusively developed to replace conventional impressions has existed for well over a decade. The original units were somewhat slow, and image acquisition was laborious. Additionally, the capture devices were heavy, and the equipment was clumsy and difficult to maneuver. Fortunately, those days are long gone. Today’s digital impression technology represents significant improvements in image-capture quality and speed as well as accuracy that far surpasses that of conventional impression techniques.
While many practitioners have introduced practice management software, digital radiographs, and caries detection technology into their practices, far fewer have begun using digital scanning equipment. Integrating digital scanning into general practice can be accomplished simply and seamlessly with minimal training. Now may be the time for your practice to make the transition. This article will discuss the many benefits of digital impression technology.
1. Patient Satisfaction
One of the most common complaints from patients is the claustrophobia they have had with conventional impression techniques. Many patients report this to be the most difficult portion of the crown experience.1 For patients with a substantial gag response, the final impression is a major source of stress. Digital impressions make this a much easier procedure for patients and can be completed faster than conventional means. Additionally, breaks can be introduced during the process with no deleterious effect on the clinical outcome and can alleviate stress for patients.
2. Stress-Free Impression-Making
With conventional impression techniques, working time is always tied to setting time.2 While fast-setting materials are generally preferred, they inherently come with short working time, which dramatically increases the stress level to the dental team. One key benefit to digital impression-making is the ability to start and stop as needed. If moisture becomes an issue, the practitioner can stop, re-establish a dry field, and begin where he or she left off. This ensures that each impression can be captured successfully on the first try.
3. Improved Quality
Digital scanning eliminates the inherent inaccuracy introduced by conventional elastomeric impression materials and stone that can produce excessive expansion if water/powder ratios are not managed precisely. The accuracy of scanners has been well established as being more precise when compared to conventional impressions and corresponding stone casts.3
4. Improved Productivity
Originally, the time it took to capture a digital impression was greater than the time required to capture a conventional impression. This was largely due to the capture software and the processor speed of the digital impressions. Digital scanning equipment has become increasingly faster at capturing digital impressions. True Definition (3M, www.3M.com) and TRIOS® (3Shape, www.3shape.com) are examples of systems that can capture a final impression in approximately 1 minute,4 which represents a significant time-savings when compared to traditional techniques.
5. Improved Skills and Outcomes
Digital impression technologies allow practitioners to evaluate their work on a whole new level. Having the ability to rotate a preparation and review margin design at very high magnification gives practitioners the ability to alter preparations and rescan as needed. This added benefit allows modifications to be made to preparations that would have been largely overlooked with conventional techniques. This can dramatically improve clinical outcomes for patients.
6. Better Delivery Time
With the improved accuracy of digital impressions, practitioners will experience far shorter time needed to deliver restorations,5 representing an improvement in practice productivity through better time management.
7. Reduction in Inventory
Digital impression technology allows clinicians to eliminate a large portion of inventory used for conventional impression techniques. Items such as impression syringes, stock trays, and different viscosities and setting times of impression material no longer need to be stocked. This not only profoundly affects revolving overhead, but will also eliminate accumulation of hazardous landfill material, making dental practices “greener.”