Digital Impression Scanners Improve Restorative Accuracy

By Rebecca Stone January 11, 2019

You have to admit, no matter which side of the technology fence you are on, digital impressioning has a lot to offer. Although many dentists continue to rely on elastomeric materials to capture dental impressions, increasing numbers appear to be going the digital route, which captures tooth structure in exquisite three-dimensional (3D) detail.

Intraoral scanning systems, many of which now feature an open architecture to facilitate workflow, typically include a scanning wand, monitor and software program. Scanning systems may be used in conjunction with in-office computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technologies — in some cases for same-day service, or employed a la carte. 1Cooper L. Digital Solutions for Better Practice. Decisions in Dentistry. 2017;3(3):18,21–22.

Digital Impression Scanners

Scanners use light — typically light-emitting diodes (LEDs ) or lasers — to capture images. Those that use LEDs often require the use of contrasting powder to even out reflective surfaces in the oral cavity. This requirement, though, appears to be diminishing as technologies evolve.

Scanners also use a number of image acquisition methods to digitally capture impressions of hard and soft tissue terrain. While one might use parallel confocal imaging to gather information that can result in a 3D image, another might rely on active wavefront sampling, which allows 3D in-motion technology to capture continuous video. 2Stone R. Copy Right. Mentor. 2018;8(9):24–28.

Additional scanner features include color scanning, hands-free operation, ever-decreasing wand sizes, technologies that counteract handshake, and systems that can stitch in any missing information without the need to repeat the entire scan.3Stone R. Copy Right. Mentor. 2018;8(9):24–28.

Increased precision and detail capture, autoclavable tips, and faster scanning are among other advancements.

Beyond The Gag Factor

But for all the bells and whistles of high-tech scanners, one of the biggest bonuses offered by digital impressioning is that it doesn’t involve sticking a gagworthy tray of goop into a patient’s mouth. Instead, slender wands capture impressions quickly, accurately — and comfortably.

Additionally, because scans can be transferred to CAD/CAM and office management systems, and to third parties, scanning systems can also expedite workflow. And, thanks to resulting on-screen, magnified images, digital impressions can improve diagnostics and boost treatment and case acceptance.4Varlotta S, Syme S, Bloom I. The Digital Advantage. Mentor. 2017;8(5):32–37.

Because impressions are digital, there is no danger of bubbles, voids, tears, distortions or material shrinkage. And disinfection and storage of models is eliminated, along with shipping costs and time delays, as scans can be digitally sent to a lab instantaneously. Digital files also help free up file space as they can be added to a patient’s digital file. 5Varlotta S, Syme S, Bloom I. The Digital Advantage. Mentor. 2017;8(5):32–37.

Frosting On The Cake

But as techno-groovy as they are, even digital scanning systems can benefit from moisture control and isolation for best results. Systems such as Isolite offer clinicians optimal control of the oral environment by keeping fogging of lenses to a minimum, while enhancing the visual field. With such a system, there is no need to fight unruly tongues, cheeks or cotton rolls. And the throat is protected from foreign bodies, including contrasting powders, as the Isolite vacuum controls that as well.6Isolation and Digital Dentistry. Available at: Accessed November 20, 2018.  There are even reports of clinicians successfully using Isolite when using traditional impression materials in quadrants.7Brady LA. Quadrant Dental Impressions With An Isolite. Available at: Accessed November 20, 2018.

Whether digital scanners are used to create full-contour crowns, implant abutments or surgical guides, with Isolite 3, the Isodry or the Isovac, it all adds up to an efficient, streamlined — non-goopy — process that both you and your patients will appreciate.