Choosing The Right Impression Material: Your Most Critical Decision | Benco Dental

Choosing The Right Impression Material: Your Most Critical Decision

January 10, 2022

You can have the most perfect technique in the world, but if your impression material isn’t up to the job, your restorations will suffer—and so will your productivity.

The most experienced carpenters are only as good as their materials. Give them cheap quality lumber and nails, and the job won’t hold together. Likewise, if you insist on forcing them to use the wrong materials, their work will never be as good as it should be—and you’ll end up paying for someone to do it over.

The same goes for dental impression materials. If you’re reading this, you’ve likely already mastered your impression-taking technique. That means the only limiting factor at this point is your choice of material. Ideally, for simplicity’s sake, you want to keep as few different materials in your inventory as possible. They should also be cost effective while taking into account the fact that you get what you pay for, and that it’s not worth risking clinical results or patient satisfaction to save pennies.

Traditional Materials In The Digital Age?

Today’s traditional impression materials leverage advanced chemistry and manufacturing to achieve the same desired result as a digital scan: producing a highly detailed and accurate representation of the oral cavity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using digital or traditional impressions, the ultimate goal is to minimize errors and deliver predictable results in a reasonable amount of time and with consideration for patient comfort. Traditional impression materials have been helping practitioners do exactly that for decades, and despite the increased adoption of digital scanners, manufacturers have continued to improve their materials.

Goals & Challenges

Let’s face it, nearly any impression material can accurately reproduce large surfaces reasonably accurately. It’s the tiny areas between teeth and gum tissue that make all the difference. This is commonly referred to as dimensional accuracy. Capturing those critical and highly detailed marginal sections is made more dif?cult by varying levels of moisture in the oral cavity, patient movement and technique. Today’s impression materials can’t eliminate those factors, but they can help make them less critical.

What To Look For

Obviously, the ability to capture ?ne detail is of the utmost importance with any impression material. In the real world, however, compromises need to be made. A good material needs to be easy to dispense and use, and that’s something you can only judge for yourself. Contact angle refers to a material’s ability to reproduce detail. The higher the contact angle described by the manufacturer, the more careful your technique must be, while lower contact angle requires less diligence.

It has to adapt to patients’ teeth and gums, but it also has to be ?exible and easy to remove, both for your ease of use and patient comfort. Speaking of patient experience, it must be hypoallergenic and have at least a tolerable taste, plus a reasonable set time that’s not so long that patients become uneasy.

Some materials are more hydrophilic than others, meaning they’re better able to work in wet environments. A key factor here is their ability to displace moisture so as to prevent voids in the impression. Since moisture is always going to be present in the oral cavity, any impression material you choose should place a very high priority on being hydrophilic and able to displace moisture while getting into tight areas.

Once the impression is removed from a patient’s mouth, the material must offer high elastic recovery upon removal from undercut areas so it returns to its original dimensions. The ADA recommends elastic recovery of at least 96.5%, but many of today’s materials easily exceed that standard. Look for a material that touts high tear strength, or the ability to withstand tearing during removal. Check also to see if the material’s dimensional stability meets your needs; some products retain accuracy for weeks, but that may be overkill if you only need hours.

Finally, the material has to carry a reasonable cost. You don’t want to pay for capabilities you don’t need, but neither do you want to sacri?ce performance. That’s why some practices prefer to keep multiple materials on hand, reserving pricier ones for the most sensitive applications and using more economical materials elsewhere.

Back To Basics

At the end of the day, the desired properties of an accurate, easy to use impression material are the same regardless of material type. Individual users are free to consider the perceived pros and cons of alginate, VPS, PE or VPE types and select accordingly.

Even in the digital age, traditional impressions remain a popular and viable option that is undeniably cost effective. Today’s materials ensure that practitioners can deliver excellent quality restorations thanks to continuing advances in materials science and production.


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