One of the main benefits of digital impressions in orthodontic treatment is their accuracy. State-of-the-art scanning technology behind digital impressions enables your dentist to get a high-precision image, using optical scanning devices.
Images can be captured as a series of digital photographs or as digital video. This data is then sent to a computer, which creates a replica of the hard and soft tissues in the mouth for producing appliances such as braces.
Digital scanning can capture data in minutes, without the need for conventional impression materials that patients often find messy and uncomfortable, particularly if you have a strong gag reflex.
According to the American Dental Association1 (ADA), more than seven percent of patients are prone to gagging. If you are one of these, digital impressions mean you no longer have to be fearful about dental appointments.
A further benefit of digital impressions in orthodontic treatment is that the scanning systems that are part of the process reduce exposure to radiation by 90 percent compared with conventional X-rays.
Cone beam imaging is the most accurate facial imaging system to date. It was developed from CAT (Computerized Axial Tomography) scan technology but produces less radiation.
The enhanced detail of digital scans lets your dentist see your mouth in far greater detail, providing them with a view of your dental anatomy from different angles. Combined with simulation technology, digital imaging also allows you to see what the end result of your treatment will look like.
Digital Impressions Vs. Conventional Impressions
Traditional tray-and-putty impressions are rapidly being replaced by digital technology.
Benefits of digital impressions2 for your dentist include increased efficiency, productivity, and accuracy. Digital impressions can be made faster than conventional ones, speeding up your treatment and reducing the need for multiple appointments.
Besides spending less time in the dental chair, you will get a better fit for your braces because of the higher quality of the image scan and resulting impression.
Other benefits of digital impressions in orthodontic treatment include:
- No unpleasant-tasting gunge in your mouth.
- More comfortable and less stressful experience.
- Reduced likelihood of errors and inaccuracies.
Patients tend to appreciate new technology in dental care, so become more engaged in their treatment process. With digital scanning, you can see your impressions instantly taking shape on a chairside screen.
The scan can be completed in three to five minutes, and the data stored electronically indefinitely, eliminating the need for paper records. A further eco-friendly benefit of digital impressions is that they avoid disposable plastic trays and impression materials.
Traditional impressions can entail the use of several materials, which makes them more prone to human error during any of the numerous steps involved and may lead to problems with material defects such as air bubbles or distortions.
With regular physical impressions, dentists have to rely on visual evaluations to decide whether the impression is ready to be sent to the dental lab. A conventional impression is in negative form, which can make it difficult to detect mistakes.
Digital impressions create a virtual, articulated model showing how the upper and lower teeth come together, and this is visible on the monitor as a positive image that can be magnified for evaluation, and any errors fixed immediately.
The iTero System of Digital Impressions
With some digital impression methods, the teeth need to be dusted with a special powder. Other techniques allow your orthodontist to create a powder-free image of your teeth. These processes include the iTero system, used by orthodontists for Invisalign treatment.
A handheld iTero wand creates a digital 3D image of your teeth, which you can see on a screen in real-time. As opposed to shipping impressions to a lab, the iTero digital image is sent electronically to the lab and will be ready the following day. Besides orthodontics, iTero can be used to create crowns, bridges, inlays and onlays, and veneers.
The iTero digital scanner can take up to 6,000 frames a second and produce a detailed mapping of your mouth on a computer screen. This ensures your orthodontist gets a complete image of your teeth.
The scanning wand is simply waved over and around your teeth, which gives patients a comfortable experience. The images it produces can be rotated and zoomed in to get an in-depth look at your teeth.
Cone Beam Computerized Tomography
The iTero system uses Cone Beam Computerized Tomography (CBCT) that creates a 3D view of the mouth to evaluate the spacing and development of teeth. The 360-degree scan of the head and mouth is fast and painless, and advanced 3D software converts a series of images into high-resolution visualizations.
A cone beam scan can also spot multiple problems that might otherwise remain undetected, including:
- Jaw problems such as temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD).
- Impacted teeth.
- Airway problems caused by large tonsils or adenoids.
- Sinus issues.
- Tumors, cysts and other growths.
How Digital Impressions Have Revolutionized Orthodontic Treatment
In some cases, regular impressions may still be needed, but orthodontists and other dentists are certainly using them less and less, in favor of the many benefits of digital impressions.
Besides producing appliances such as conventional braces and Invisalign clear plastic aligners, digital impressions can also create customized retainers for use after your orthodontic treatment.
Digital scans and impressions benefit patients and dentists alike. They have revolutionized the diagnosis and treatment of orthodontic problems, with a non-invasive procedure that gives patients a better experience, while providing the orthodontist with crucial information in high detail.
Digital scans make diagnosis and treatment faster and more effective, and your orthodontist can detect issues such as bite disorders and misaligned teeth with far greater precision.
Three-dimensional digital imaging enables dentists to see problems that might be missed with 2D X-rays. This enables early intervention, which gives you a much better chance of a successful outcome for your treatment.
The safe and powerful technology of digital impressions allows for imprints of greater accuracy, which ensures the dental lab can create appliances for patients that are a precise fit.