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    Digital impressions: Ready for their close-up?

    Digital impressions entered the market almost three decades ago, but adoption rates have been slow. Is now the time for digital impressions?

    It has been 30 years since the first digital impressioning systems entered the market. The same decade that brought us Pac-Man, the smartwatch and the Pet Rock introduced us to the intraoral scanner. It also presented the idea that taking pictures in the oral cavity and stitching them together with software could produce images that would facilitate dental restorations and replace a tray of impression material.  

    Digital impressions have changed quite a bit since the 1980s. The technology processes faster, the wands are smaller and more comfortable in the mouth, and the scans are more detailed than they were back then. Plus, you can access them from your smartphone if you want. Best of all, you no longer have to sell that vintage Swatch collection on eBay to raise funds to buy one.  

    Despite these improvements over the past three decades and the increasing adoption of digital impressions in dental practices, traditional impressions are still more prevalent than digital impressions in the dental industry.

    So what’s the story? Should intraoral scanners replace traditional impression material and trays? What benefits can one expect from using the technology and should dental professionals invest? Are digital impressions ready for their close-up? 

    We talked to several industry experts about the state of digital impressions today. Here’s what they had to say. 

    Related reading: The 5 biggest benefits of digital impressions

    Digital impression scannerDigital impressions are past ready for prime time

    “This is the future,” says Dr. John Flucke, DDS, and Technology Editor for Dental Products Report. “Digital is the future; impressions are the past. Impressions are like black-and-white TV or a modem.”

    Dr. Flucke has been in private practice in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, for nearly 30 years and has been using digital impressions for the last 10. He has never regretted the investment. 

    “From the day I bought the machine, I was glad I did it,” he says. “The only reason I can think of not to have a digital impression system is if you can’t afford it. Other than that, there is not one advantage that traditional impressions have over digital. Digital wins, hands down.”

    “It’s another piece of technology making dentistry easier, better and faster. People are adopting it and marketing that they use it. But still traditional impressions have a big place in the market,” says Dr. Jason Goodchild, DMD, director of clinical affairs for Premier Dental Products Company.

    Trending article: Are digital impressions REALLY the better choice?

    Dr. Goodchild says it helps that the trend toward moving to digital impressions means that they can be used for a broader array of treatment areas than before. In the past, digital impressions were used for inlays, onlays and the occasional crown. However, now dental professionals can use digital impressions for clear aligner therapy, multiple-unit crown or bridge, implant planning and even full denture treatments, to name a few. Additional applications emerge all the time for the techy dentist. For example, scanners integrate with software and imaging technology. 

    “You have scanning integrating with cone beam imaging and software that puts it together and helps with restorative or clear aligner planning,” Dr. Goodchild says. “You are getting lots of integration with other pieces of technology, which is exciting for planning and showing patients what’s possible as well as education and diagnosing.”


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