Digital versus Traditional Impressions

November 23, 2021

Greg Schubert | Blog Author at Pro-Craft

Written by:
Greg Schubert

Digital versus Traditional Impressions

Nov 23, 2021

How does the technology of digital impressions stack up?

Digital vs Traditional Impressions

Dental impressions provide the groundwork for all restorative treatments. Every dental restoration case is based on the quality of the impression. When you have a poor impression, it can lead to costly remakes, delays, and improper fit. While traditional impressions are still widely used today, the development of new intraoral digital scanners to produce digital impressions has thrived over the past decade.  So how does this new technology stack-up? Let’s find out.


What is a Digital Impression?


A digital impression is a technology that allows dentists to create a virtual, computer-generated replica of the mouth by using an oral scanning device. This technology can capture clear and accurate impression data in just a couple of minutes or less. Once the digital replica is complete, the information is then transferred to a computer and used to create restorations. 

Digital versus Traditional Impressions


Typically, a traditional impression can take several minutes, include the use of several materials, and involves multiple steps. The traditional impression procedure is a highly delicate and skilled process. This makes it easier to introduce errors from either the human element or material defects such as air bubbles or improper setting. Offered as an alternative, digital impressions can take the uncomfortable and stressful impression-taking procedure out of the equation.  Here are some benefits to consider about digital impressions.


Benefits of Digital Impressions

  • Reduces the incidence of remakes. Digital impressions allow for better-fitting and more anatomically correct restorations. Digital cases with PRO-Craft statistically have a lower remake factor than conventional cases. 
  • Increases patient satisfaction with faster appointments and less time in the dental chair.
  • Reduces patient discomfort and limits gag reflex.
  • Decreased overhead costs and inventory. Reduces the need for impression material, shipping, storage, or model sterilization.
  • Reduces environmental footprint.


Challenges of Digital Impressions

As cutting-edge as it may sound, there are still challenges when it comes to digital impressions. Some of the top challenges of digital impressions are: 

  • Substantial upfront investment. A digital impression system can range anywhere between $20,000 - $25,000.
  • With technology comes a learning curve. Training in the use of the equipment is necessary. 


Troubleshooting Digital Scans


There are times when you’ll run into issues with a digital scanner. Often the solution is just an easy fix. Here are a few troubleshooting tips you can try before contacting technical support.

  1. Smudge Lenses as Seen in Viewfinder: Smudges can interfere with a clear image capture and can even cause artifacts on the scan. The lenses on the patient sleeve and the inner optical lens will need to be perfectly clear. 
  • Solution Patient Sleeve: With a dampened 2x2 gauze or cotton ball, wipe the lens clean and then dry to remove any remaining residue or moisture.
  • Solution Optical Lens: Wipe the lens with the dedicated cloth that may have been included with your scanner sleeves.
  1. Excess Saliva: Excess moisture on the teeth, for example saliva bubbles on the occlusal, can prevent image capture and result in missing anatomy.
  • Solution: Delete the scan to start over. Then dry the teeth with air or a 2x2 gauze so that excess moisture is removed on the occlusal surface. After dry and clean, resume scanning.
  1. Scan Technique: Most scanners are designed for the wand to touch the teeth while scanning. If it's not touching, it may not be able to capture the area being scanned.
  • Solution: Scan in the proper sequence; occlusal, lingual, buccal and incisal roll of each arch. If the scanner has lost its place, back up to the last image shown. Ensure the lens is touching the teeth. Once the model starts building again you can resume scanning.
  1. Turning Wand On & Off During Scanning: Purple images at the bottom of the screen that are not stitching together can result from the wand turning off and on.
  • Solution: Be sure to scan full occlusal, lingual and buccal of each arch. Do not turn the wand off when you scan each arch. 
  • If the model stops building while you are scanning, do not turn wand off. Instead, with the wand still on, back up the last image displayed on the screen.
  • Once you start to see the model move again, this indicates that the scanner recognizes already captured anatomy. You can resume scanning from this point.
  • If purple images are present, delete them.

The Future of Digital Impressions


As technology continues to progress and become more prevalent, dental practices will be eager to take advantage of a digital impression system. Ultimately, digital impressions offer greater convenience, reduce margin of error, and allow you to treat more patients because patients spend less time in the chair.


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