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    5 ways that traditional impressions can go wrong

    Many dentists still prefer analog impressions — but a lot still goes wrong.

    You’ve heard the debate about the value of digital versus traditional impressions for years now. Dentists argue passionately that one is inherently better than the other and it seems like the debate won’t ever end, but at the end of the day it really comes down to personal preference the individual case.

    Traditional impressions are still widely used (some estimates say the average dentist does around 380 a year), and they’re not going away anytime soon. And while impression materials seem to get better every year, they still account for one huge problem: people. No matter how good the material is, human error still plays a factor.

    Bad impressionHow many impressions do you think you’ve sent to your lab that could be described as less-than-perfect? If you’ve ever gotten a desperate call from your lab telling you that your impression-taking skills need some work, you’re not alone: a recent study found that 64.5 percent of impressions sent to labs are unacceptable.

    But that’s fine, you say, the lab will call me if there’s a problem. It’s on them to make sure it’s right.

    But just like you, labs are a business, and they need to make money. Jason H. Goodchild, DMD, director of clinical affairs at Premier Dental Products Company, likes to tell this anecdote. At a recent visit to a lab where he was teaching a recent CE course, a technician spent some time showing him different bad impressions that had been sent in over the years.

    Related article: The 10 golden rules for taking impressions

    Dr. Goodchild asked the technician, “What do you do when a dentist sends a bad impression?” to which the tech replied, “Call them.” “After the tenth time?” he asked. “We don’t call them anymore,” the tech said, “We’re game players, not game changers.” What the tech meant was that, while labs can fix some mistakes, they’re not miracle workers.

    Just like other business, labs also need to keep their customers happy. Dr. Goodchild says, “If the lab calls you every single time [there’s a problem], the dentist is going to find another lab. They don’t want to be bothered.” The lab is stuck with the conundrum of either losing the customer or creating a crown off of a bad impression, so they’ll make the crown because they don’t want to lose business.

    It’s up to you — and only you — to make sure that you aren’t part of that 64.5 percent sending bad impressions. Here are just a few of things that can go wrong and tips to help you fix them in the future.

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