What Every Patient Should Know About Traditional Impressions Vs. Digital Impressions

“We need to take a dental impression.”

These are seven words that patients with a sensitive gag reflex hate to hear. Traditional impressions mean biting into a tray filled with impression material and holding it there without moving (or gagging) for a couple of minutes while it sets.

However, improvements in dental technology have made biting into the impression material unnecessary. Taking an impression is as easy as taking a picture.

Using an intraoral scanner, the dental professional can get all the information he or she needs to proceed with your treatment. It’s called a digital impression, and patients everywhere find it a significant improvement over the traditional dental impression experience.

Dental impressions are negative imprints of the teeth and gums. An impression is used to make a model of the teeth for diagnosis and treatment planning for many common dental treatments, including orthodontics.

For a traditional impression, the dental professional first preps and isolates the patient’s teeth. Then, he or she places impression material, usually an alginate-based product, into a tray. Then, the dental professional has the patient bite down on the tray and hold it until it is solid enough to remove from the patient’s mouth, which usually takes a couple of minutes.

For a digital impression, the dentist will prep your teeth as usual. However, instead of using a tray loaded with impression material, the dentist uses a sensor with a camera that captures a series of images of the oral cavity that stitch together to deliver a digital version of the impression of your teeth. Digital impressions are often available for you to see on a monitor. After capturing the images, the impression information transfers to a computer for diagnosis and treatment planning.

There are many benefits to a digital impression. Many of them are clinical, meaning the dentists have an easier time taking the impression accurately and delivering your treatment efficiently. However, there are multiple benefits to the patient experience as well, including:

  • Less chair time for you: Digital impressions are faster than traditional impressions.
  • No nasty-tasting impression material: The intraoral camera is all we need.
  • A more comfortable experience: There is no gagging, less anxiety, and everyone is happier—including the dentist.
  • Retakes, if needed, are a breeze: Digital impressions tend to have fewer technical mistakes than traditional impressions. However, when there is a problem, it’s as easy as taking another scan. Plus, we know right away if there is a problem with the impression, while you are still in the chair, in fact, so you won’t need to come back into the office. We will retake it right then and there.
  • A “greener” solution to dental impressions: The digital aspect of the impression eliminates waste that would otherwise go to the landfill.

At Bloom Orthodontics, we invest in technology to provide the best in modern orthodontic treatment for our patients. We use the iTero 3D Scanner Digital Technology and are proud to be one of the few orthodontic clinics in Long Beach to use it. Not only can you see the 3D impression of your teeth, but you can also see how your teeth could look after treatment in two minutes through a computer simulation. Best of all, it provides a much more comfortable patient experience than biting into trays of goop and trying not to gag.

Traditional impressions are fine, but they have their drawbacks. Digital impressions are fantastic and provide a much more comfortable patient experience. If you have the choice between traditional dental impressions and modern digital impressions, we are confident you will be much happier making the digital choice.

To schedule your free consultation today, call Bloom Orthodontics’ office in Long Beach at 562-421-8883.

Bloom Orthodontics in Long Beach has a long history of improving our patients’ smiles. We provide modern orthodontic treatments delivered with old fashioned excellence in patient experience. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.



Watson, Shawn. “An Alternative to Traditional Dental Impressions. How does digital technology stack up?” verywellhealth.com. 29 April 2019. Web. 22 May 2019.  https://www.verywellhealth.com/digital-versions-of-dental-impressions-1059374

Digital Impressions: Virtually Perfect.” Yourdentistryguide.com. Web. 22 May 2019. < https://www.yourdentistryguide.com/digital-impressions/