Traditional tray-and-putty dental impressions are rapidly being replaced by highly accurate digital intraoral impressions, but the time and cost associated with adopting new technology may be holding you back. While digital impression systems require a financial investment, they have benefits over traditional tray-and-putty impressions that are impossible to ignore. Here are some advantages of digital dental impressions we see at the lab.
Faster turnaround times
Digital impressions can be sent to the lab faster, which means we can start on cases sooner. Plus, 3D printing models in-house gives us even greater control over how long a case takes. When you don’t need to send out information to print a model, you can reduce model turnaround time from three days to the same day. See our 3D model printer in action.
Real-time feedback for better preps
With immediate access to enlarged images of your prep, you can view the impression from different angles to check prep design, margins and occlusal clearance in real time to make sure everything looks perfect before sending your Rx to the lab. On certain systems—like 3Shape Trios, CEREC Omnicam and Carestream CS 3600—the lab can double-check the case in real time to discuss troubleshooting and case planning.
Reduction in remakes
Digital impressions take out steps in the process that introduce the opportunity for human error, e.g. manually taking an impression, pouring and articulating a model, and trimming dies. A recent study at California Dental Arts found that restorations based on tray-and-putty impressions typically result in a 4% remake factor. With digital impressions sent from the Cadent iTero system, that number was reduced to .1%.
Improved workflow means reduced turnaround times for our clients. In the lab, 60% of our work uses a digital workflow. In order to use CAD/CAM software on tray-and-putty impressions, we have to pour a model and scan it into the system. By eliminating the need to pour, pin, base, section, trim dies, articulate and trim margins, the lab can expedite cases back to your office.
Better products for the patient
The best crowns are designed off the intraoral 3D scan of the mouth, as opposed to a scanned copy of a poured impression. Digital impressions help create better restorations for patients, especially those with difficult bites. Tray-and-putty impressions tend to distort, pull and tear if a patient has large embrasures. Because digital impressions avoid pulls and tears, you can capture details a traditional impression just won’t get.
Providing more information to the lab
Digital impression scanners capture more information, giving the lab more tools to design successful restorations. For instance, if an intraoral scanner captures color, it can alert the lab to a dark stump that would make placing a translucent crown more difficult. Labs can use this information to suggest alternative crown materials that will achieve a better esthetic for the patient.
Better patient experience
While getting a scan might not work for all patients, patients will almost always prefer digital impressions. And intraoral scanners capture bite registrations more accurately than blue mousse, eliminating the need to send the case to the dentist to verify the bite.
No information loss
Marking margins digitally helps technicians avoid over-trimming. If there is a question as to the margin after the die has been digitally trimmed, the technician can ask a manager to check the digital file on the computer. If this happens on a model, a new “plug” die must be made, adding both time and reduced accuracy to the equation. And you can be more precise; looking at things like a prepped tooth at 1,000 times its actual size makes trimming the margin much more accurate.
Have a questionable margin? The lab can clarify the margin with you digitally using a screen-share service, instead of having to send the model back for you to trim the margin. This reduces dentist workload, improves turnaround time and results in a more productive practice.
It can cost $40 in materials just to take an impression. With digital impressions, you don’t have any disposable material costs, and you don’t have to spend time finding and disinfecting trays.
New revenue streams
You might only want a scanner for your crown and bridge practice, but new technology can expand your business into Invisalign, implants or other high-profit revenue streams with very little extra effort.