• Dr. Tanner

No More Goopy Impressions!



One of the more dreaded procedures in orthodontics is taking impressions for study models, which serves as the basis for baseline records. Orthodontists use these models to formulate a patient’s treatment plan and reference back to them to evaluate treatment progress and outcome of care. Unfortunately, sticking a large tray in your mouth filled with goopy material (alginate) for a couple of minutes is far from a pleasurable experience. Anyone who has a sensitive gag reflex knows the trauma of trying to hang on and resist the temptation to pull the tray out of his or her mouth before the material has set.


With the advent of clear aligner therapy, the need for accurate study models, not only for diagnosis, but more

importantly for the fabrication of the trays, was paramount. When Invisalign first came to the market, the only option was to take physical impressions with a material called PVS or Polyvinylsiloxane. This impression material had much greater accuracy than alginate (which is typically used for study models) but also proved to be very challenging to capture every tooth and margin in the mouth. Consequently, a patient at the initial Invisalign records appointment may have had multiple impressions taken in order to get one good set. Even worse, sometimes patients had to return to the office for new impressions if the original impression(s) were reviewed and rejected by Invisalign. Definitely a big bummer!


Great news!!! In 2011, Align Technology, the maker of Invisalign bought Cadent, a privately held company that was the maker of a 3D intraoral scanner for orthodontics and dentistry. Now orthodontists had a system to not only scan teeth for initial records but also quickly upload a scan to Align to begin the process for developing the virtual tooth movement sequence for the fabrication of the Invisalign aligners. Best of all, no more goopy impressions or re-impressions!


So how does the iTero scanner from Align Technology work? A dental assistant, who has been trained in the scanning procedure, uses a hand held wand and gently guides the wand over the teeth. The wand captures thousands of frames per second and stitches them together into a three dimensional visualization of the patient’s mouth. There is no radiation involved and the scanning procedure takes less than 5 minutes. Immediately, the patient can see their teeth on the computer screen and the orthodontists can review the significant findings. There is even a very cool option that allows the orthodontist to run a simulation as to how the teeth and bite may look following the completion of orthodontic treatment!


So, in conclusion, what are the benefits of no more goopy impressions and the 21st century advent of 3D intraoral scanning?

  • Greater patient comfort with the virtual model acquisition process.

  • Reduced time in the chair to acquire both the baseline records and Invisalign records—one and the same process.

  • More accurate impressions—10 times fewer rejections than with PVS impressions and 7 times better fit of the aligners.

  • Immediate feedback for the patient in terms of assessing their teeth and bite issues. Improved communication and understanding.

  • Less waste—no plastic trays or impression material to dispose of.

  • Safe—no source of radiation or other harmful materials.

  • Long term record keeping—easy to access records from any location at any time.


At Visage Orthodontics, we have been using the iTero scanner for many years and enjoying the benefits of this amazing technology. Intraoral scanning was a game changer for clear aligner treatment and one of the many reasons Invisalign is the best system on the market today!



If you have questions about the benefits of Invisalign treatment, please call Visage Orthodontics at 505-670-6145 or visit our appointment page to schedule a complimentary consultation with me, Dr. Tanner, your Santa Fe Invisalign specialist. I will review everything in detail and develop a customized treatment plan to fit your lifestyle and budget.


A confident and beautiful smile is right around the corner!