When you go to the dentist for a check-up or to have some work done, you may be asked to have a dental impression taken. At this point, you are probably wondering what a dental impression is and what does it entail? This blog post will answer all of your questions about dental impressions!
First things first, let’s start with a basic definition of what a dental impression is. A dental impression is a mold of your teeth that is used by your dentist and dental labs to create dental appliances, such as:
- Clear aligners
- Crowns or bridges
- Dental Implants
- Dental Trays (for impressions or teeth whitening)
- Models for diagnostic study
- Model for permanent dental record
- Oral appliances (for sleep apnea)
Your dentist will use the dental impression to create a model of your mouth so that they can custom-make your appliance. By looking at a dental impression, your dentist can learn how your dental arches fit together, the size of your teeth, and how your teeth and gums fit together.
Traditional dental impressions are made by taking a soft plastic material and placing it into your mouth so that it conforms to the shape of your teeth. In some cases, a digital dental impression can also be used. Unlike a traditional dental impression that uses a special putty, digital dental impressions are taken using a handheld wand and computer software.
How Dental Impressions are Made
Dental impressions can be made from different materials, but the most common type is a soft plastic material called alginate. This material is found within the cell walls of brown seaweeds and is used to form sodium alginate. Alginate is safe for use in the mouth and it provides a detailed impression of your teeth. It is also used as a thickening agent in soups, jellies, ice cream, cosmetics, drinks, and slimming aids.
The alginate is poured into a horseshoe shaped metal or plastic tray that is made to fit over either the upper or lower set of teeth. There are two main types of trays that can be used: stock or custom.
Stock trays come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are used to take primary impressions. They can be either plastic or metal and can either have rounded edges for people with no teeth or square edges for people with teeth. Most impressions can be successfully taken with stock trays due to the use of putty.
Custom trays are made from a primary impression taken using a stock tray. Once the primary impression is taken, it is then used to create a tray that is customized for an individual patient.
When used on the upper teeth, the tray will also cover the roof of the mouth. When used on the lower teeth, the tray will also cover the floor of the mouth and under the tongue. Once the trays are in place, the alginate will slowly “set” and harden into a rubber-like consistency. This normally takes about 1-3 minutes. The tray will then gently be removed from the mouth.
Once your dentist has taken your dental impression, they will send it to a dental lab where it will be used to create your custom dental appliance. At the dental lab, stone will be poured into the impressions made by your teeth and gums. This creates an exact replica of your teeth and gums that a dental lab can then use to fabricate your dental appliance.
Do Dental Impressions Hurt?
Dental impressions are not a painful procedure, but some people may feel a little uncomfortable when the alginate is placed in their mouths. For some people, dental impressions can trigger the gag reflex. There are ways around this, so be sure to speak with your dentist if you are worried about your gag reflex. The good news is that the alginate sets quickly, so the discomfort doesn’t last long!
If you have sensitive teeth, your dentist may use a different type of material for your dental impression. One common alternative is polyether, which is a putty-like material that sets harder than alginate. Polyether is also less likely to cause an allergic reaction in people with latex allergies.
Another option for people with sensitive teeth is digital dental impressions. As we mentioned before, digital dental impressions are taken using a handheld wand and computer software. This method is growing in popularity because it is more accurate than traditional dental impressions and is generally more comfortable.
In this blog, we discussed dental impressions. We explained what a dental impression is, how they are made, what they are made from, how they are used, and when they are necessary. We also answered some commonly asked questions about dental impressions. If you have any other questions or would like to learn more about this topic, be sure to speak with your dentist!