Female orthodontist looking in dental mirror while placing alginate impression putty form into woman mouth

Analog vs Digital Impressions: Which Is a Better Choice for Your Dental Practice?

Dental impressions underpin all restorative therapies. All parties—patients, dental professionals, and laboratory technicians—need correct impressions for treatment planning and lab fabrication. Techniques and materials might make accurate imprints difficult. While material selection is debated, most dentists believe that technique is the most critical component in generating excellent impressions. Stomadent Dental Labs can help you make the best choice. https://stomadentlab.com/

Polysulfides, a laborious, foul-tasting solution, were the first elastomeric imprint material over 50 years ago. Polyether substance has good hydrophilic properties and fluidity, but terrible taste, low tear strength, difficulty mixing, and stiffness upon removal. Polyether imprint materials were improved in the 1970s. Hydrophobic vinyl polysiloxane (VPS) materials had good tear strength, neutral flavor, flexibility upon removal, and dimensional stability. New vinyl polyether silicone combines VPS rip strength, dimensional stability, and polyether wettability and flow. 

As dental technologies continue to advance, digital dental impressions provide an alternative. Digital imprints improve restorative fit and anatomical correctness. Because dentists can see preparations instantly, digital impressions help them build better restoratives. 

Digital impression-taking saves patients and dentists from painful and stressful impression-taking techniques. Oral scanners bypass the soft palate, reducing patient pain and gag reflex compared to older procedures. Without impression material, shipping, model storage, or model sterilization, digital impressions are convenient. Digital impressions reduce a dental office’s “footprint” by eliminating imprint trays, supplies, storage, overhead, and inventory. Digital impressions are limited by scanner size, the ability to record just what the scanner can view, and diminished efficiency when blood, saliva, or contaminants are present in the mouth cavity. 


The average conventional imprint with stock tray costs $18–$35.  However, digital impression systems cost between $20,000 and $30,000. They demand initial investment, time to master the system, and employee training. The typical digital model cost depends on whether the system is rented or owned and how often it is used. The real benefits are case-management improvement and time-savings. Digital impressions provide speedier restorations, faster manufacturing, and less occlusal correction. Digital impressions are faster and more accurate.


Traditional impression materials were used to locate dental implants until recently. New cooperation between implant firms and digital scanner manufacturers have produced viable digital sensor systems for implant treatments. The FDA authorized digital impression systems for implant coded healing abutments in 2011. Digital impressions reduce impression copings. Now, facets on the occlusal surfaces of the abutments indicate the implant platform diameter, healing abutment height, implant hex location, and emergence profile diameter. 3-D digital imprints allow accurate guided-surgical implantation and more predictable results. 

Oral scanner technology also sends implant information and abutment design to laboratory facilities for production or for a quick prototype model. Then the dental lab may make the final restorations. Digital impressions may be utilized for full-arch restorations down to single crowns, veneer jobs, implants, inlays, and onlays. But traditional impressions are employed for abutment manufacture and implant insertion.


Digital imprint systems are expensive for dental practices. Digital systems are convenient and error-free, but they need a large investment and learning curve. Digital technology and conventional materials can create any restorative impressions, including implant impressions. Traditional impressions will still be used in 3–5 years, even though most will be digitized.