Modern technology has changed the world of dentistry. In particular, digital impressions have made the manufacture of various items, like occlusal splints and night guards, much easier. Physical impressions take time and need to be entirely recreated when there are changes in a patient’s mouth. Not surprisingly, this is something most dentists don’t particularly enjoy spending time on.
But, it’s not only dentists who tend to dislike physical impressions. Patients also find them to be time-consuming — not to mention, uncomfortable. Since physical impressions need to be pressed firmly into a patient’s mouth, they can cause loose teeth to move around, as well as night guards and occlusal splints that fit poorly. The discomfort that this can cause leads many patients to stop wearing them. In addition, the long period of time between the physical impression and the making of the appliance (from seven to 11 days for most labs) can slow down the work in a dental practice.
Benefits of digital impressions
On the contrary, digital impressions can be stored in the practice’s system, so they can be easily overlaid on previous impressions. Scanning the patient’s mouth is simple using an intraoral scanner, which virtually reduces any of the discomfort patients would normally experience otherwise. Bite impressions, which are typically handled by an articulator, can also be done digitally. The technology used can capture the specific motion of the teeth and the patient’s bite, so articulation on occlusal splints can be exact and night guards can be made to match a patient’s particular pattern of tooth wear and grinding.
Time management enhancements
Another important element of digital impressions in a dental practice is time management. With intraoral scanning and 3D printing readily available, an occlusal splint or night guard can easily be made within the same day — often in as little as one hour — reducing chair time for both the patient and the dentist. Compatible software can also be integrated with the scanning device, leading to greater efficiency and workflow. Once a scan is made, it can be treated the same way as a physical impression: virtual “wax” is applied to the impression of the teeth and can be added or removed as needed. If contact points or articulations are missing or incorrect, notifications from the software can inform the dentist of what’s not working.
After a digital model is created, it needs to be printed, the same way that a physical mold would need to be filled. 3D printers can make this process easier by allowing the digital mold to be printed directly from the computer system. While some older 3D printers have to work overnight to create the intended item, newer models have the ability to work much faster, increasing same-day dentistry and ultimately improving cost savings by manufacturing the items in-house.
Digital workflows in real-world settings
Many dentists are regularly integrating digital workflows into their practices using intraoral scanning and 3D printing technology — and for good reason. All of the examples below illustrate how digital workflows can significantly improve patient satisfaction and comfort, as well as increase accuracy and reduce overall chair time:
- A 48-year-old patient arrived at the dental office with a complaint of chipped and broken teeth, which made him feel self-conscious. Two intraoral scans taken nine months apart showed his teeth were slowly shifting and highlighted areas where certain teeth were experiencing the most wear. The scans provided the basis for orthodontic treatment and helped determine the precise fit for a mouth guard so there wouldn’t be excess wear to the teeth at night.
- A patient owned a night guard with numerous clasps that affixed to his teeth. He disliked wearing it because it was too tight. After receiving a new night guard that was 3D printed within the same visit, he stated that it was much more comfortable — so much so, that he would actually forget he was wearing it.
- A patient who had been in a car accident was accustomed to wearing a night guard every night. Her current night guard was fractured and she needed to get a replacement, as she could not sleep without it. By the end of her visit, she had a new 3D printed night guard that let her go home feeling secure.
Integrating digital technology into a dental practice not only helps dentists save time, but also leads to greater efficiency, accuracy and overall patient outcomes. With the right equipment in place, dental offices can make occlusal splints and night guards in as little as one hour. These devices can be customized to fit almost any need with more precision than ever before.
To learn more about digital impressioning and same-day dentistry, visit https://henryscheinequipmentcatalog.com/cad-cam.