“Significant” is an understatement. Anyone who has ever experienced having a dental impression for a crown or bridge or implant or veneer, knows how gross, uncomfortable, and disgusting these impressions can be. But I bet you didn’t know the extent of human error involved when using dental impressions vs a digital scanner! I didn’t know either… until I tried digital scanning and saw the massive difference in detail, fit, and precision that the scanner can deliver.
Sloppy, Distorted Impressions
Here is one thing to consider: when we take an impression, it is made out of poly-vinyl siloxane, which is meant to set in a specific amount of time, then we take it out of your mouth, hope we got an accurate impression, and then package it up to have a driver pick it up at some point in the next couple of days. This impression then sits… and distorts. Then a driver comes to pick it up, sits it in his delivery van while going office to office, and if the temperature in the van is not just right, the impression distorts some more. By the time it gets to the lab, sits on a bench for a day or two, and a lab tech decides to pay it some attention, it has actually managed to change shape and become contaminated from the number of people handling it. From the pour of the impression to make it into a stone model to another lab technician paying it some attention to finally create your crown or bridge, then firing it in a furnace to glaze or stain its colour, this impression has gone through multiple people, multiple days, and multiple temperatures. No wonder, when we get the crowns back in the office and try them in, they require adjustments or remakes.
Digital Scanning is More Precise
But that was the norm… until COVID-19. What got to me when we were shut down and wondering if and how we are ever to re-open, it was not the lack of accuracy or precision that got me to question the old ways of doing things. It was the sterility of the process. By taking impressions and sending them out to the lab, I had zero control. From the driver, to the lab tech # 1 to 7, to another driver, the impression would go through so many hands, there was no way to determine who was involved in finally making it. But with COVID, I wanted full control. I not only wanted better accuracy and fit, I wanted full control and full sterile environment so I could make the crowns and fabricate them in my own office, to ensure that my patients were not exposed to any virus or pathogen outside.
So how do you do that? It’s simple, though incredibly out there and insane. Impressions were replaced with digital scanning, with equipment that took 3-D pictures of my patient’s teeth and converted them to a digital model that was more exact and accurate than anything I have ever seen. But then the scanner communicated with a mill, which took that exact precise model of your teeth and yes… milled it from a porcelain ingot to make you a crown that fit better than anything you have ever seen! The best part: nobody touched it and nothing distorted it so when it came out of the mill, 20 minutes later, it was the most accurate crown I had ever seen! And sterile. No way was it exposed to anyone but my patient and me, in full PPE gear!
So if you have ever wondered about precision and safety when it comes to your dental work, I have you covered!