3D imaging is a fairly new concept. It wasn’t that long ago that, when it came to looking at your teeth, the best a dentist or orthodontist could do was either use a panoramic x-ray machine to take a picture of all your teeth at once or else use a certain kind of putty to take an impression of your teeth. But while both techniques work well enough, they still leave plenty of room for improvement.
For one thing, while a panoramic x-ray of your teeth is good for seeing things like fillings and the way adult teeth are pushing up towards the baby teeth, it can only show you how the teeth are moving towards and away from each other. If you want to see how the teeth are angling inwards or outwards, you need to take a different x-ray scan or you need to try something else.
But then putty isn’t the perfect alternative, either. For one thing, it’s not all that pleasant to have a big metal tray covered in goop stuffed in your mouth and then left there for several minutes so the putty can harden. And from the doctor’s perspective, putty means working with messy goop you have to clean up afterwards in order to get an impression that sometimes has imperfections thanks to the process of pulling the tray out.
A putty impression gives you a solid 3D image of a patient’s teeth and you need that image to create a form-fitting appliance like a retainer or Invisalign braces, but the whole process leaves much to be desired.
That’s why many dentists and orthodontists are switching to digital scans. New devices are coming out that let orthodontists point a special scanning wand at a set of teeth and get a completely accurate look at how the teeth fit together inside the mouth. The process isn’t quite as comfortable as an x-ray scan, but the wand doesn’t use x-rays and it’s much faster to use than the putty. Plus the patient can watch as the scan turns into a 3D model in real time on the scanner’s display.
Most places that scan impressions do so using digital imaging, so using a scanner instead of putty both improves the experience for everyone and cuts out the middleman. So if you’re in need of an orthodontist, find out if the office you want to visit has embraced the way of the future by using digital scanning instead of putty.