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Ultimate Guide to Types of Dental Impression Materials

Ultimate Guide to Types of Dental Impression Materials


Dental impressions are an integral part of dentistry; they allow dental professionals to create three-dimensional models of patients’ mouths and take a detailed, hands-on approach to clinical treatment.


Safco Dental Supply is proud to serve as your trusted dental resource. Within this article, we will cover everything you need to know about dental impressions, as well as the materials that are used to take and create them.


What is the Function of Dental Impressions?

Dental impressions are used to create an exact replica of the inside of a patient’s mouth. They are used to examine teeth, gums, and any other surrounding oral structures. 


Dental impressions will typically be taken with a type of impression material known as alginate, though they may be taken with polysulfide, polyether, or polyvinyl siloxane (silicone). The type of impression material that is used varies from case to case. 


More recently, digital dental impressions have become quite popular, as well.


Dental impressions can be used in the following applications:

  • Diagnostic models for clinical treatment
  • The creation of whitening trays, mouth guards, or retainers
  • The creation of full and/or partial dentures
  • The creation of dental crowns or bridges
  • Dental implant treatment planning
  • Dental veneer treatment planning


Accurate Replication of Oral Structures

Because dental impressions are taken directly inside the patient’s mouth, they allow for a complete and accurate replication of that patient’s oral structures.


This is especially helpful for the creation of dental prosthetics such as crowns, bridges, dentures, or dental implants.


Used for Dental Prosthetics

In the creation of dental prosthetics, a set of accurate and high-quality dental impressions will help ensure that the prosthetic fits perfectly inside the mouth and blends in with the patient’s natural teeth.


Poor-quality impressions make it difficult to achieve proper fit and function, resulting in multiple visits spent correcting the fit, bite, or appearance of the prosthetic. This is not only inconvenient for both patient and provider; it can be quite costly due to the need for more materials.


Types of Dental Impression Materials Defined

Below, we will break down the most common types of dental impression materials that are used in modern dentistry, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.


Alginate Impression Material

Alginate is a popular impression material option that is derived from alginic acid, found naturally in brown algae. Alginate is a hydrocolloid, which means that it dissolves in an aqueous solution to give vicious effects. Alginate impression material is also elastic and irreversible.


Most alginate impression material comes in the form of powder which is mixed with water to create a putty, which is typically loaded into impression trays and placed inside the mouth.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Alginate

Below are some of the most notable advantages of using dental alginate:

  • Cost-effective
  • Provide good surface detail 
  • Low tear strength
  • Nontoxic
  • Hydrophilic qualities
  • Easy to remove when compared with elastomeric impression materials
  • Quick setting time
  • Simple to use
  • Mild flavor 

Below are some of the most notable disadvantages of using dental alginate:

  • Provide only one good pour for each impression
  • Less detailed impressions when compared with elastomeric impressions
  • Can be quite messy and uncomfortable for the patient


Polyvinyl siloxane Impression Material

Polyvinyl siloxane impression materials are silicone elastomers that are useful in both restorative dentistry as well as prosthodontics. They are widely regarded as one of the best options for exceptional detail reproduction.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Polyvinyl Siloxane

Below are the most notable advantages of using polyvinyl siloxane impressions:

  • Exceptional detail reproduction
  • Resists distortion and tearing during removal 

Below are the most notable disadvantages of using polyvinyl siloxane:

  • React negatively with latex; contact with latex can lead to direct inhibition of polymerization
  • High cost
  • High moisture sensitivity
  • Limited shelf life


Polyether Impression Material

Polyether impression material (VPS) is elastomeric and hydrophilic, which makes it exceptionally useful when there is excess moisture inside the mouth. It is ideal for the final impressions in the creation of crowns, bridges, dental implants, and partial dentures.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Polyether

Below are the most notable advantages of using polyether impressions:

  • Provide good detail
  • Adequate tear resistance
  • Mild flavor
  • Exceptionally hydrophilic; superior moisture tolerance
  • Mess-free and comfortable for patients
  • Hydrophilic


Below are the most notable disadvantages of using polyether impressions:

  • Very rigid once set; difficult to remove 
  • Short working time
  • May potentially cause allergic reactions in certain patients due to sulfonate acid esters

Polysulfide Impression Material

Polysulfide impressions are often useful when a long working time is required. They are exceptionally flexible and are useful for the creation of full dentures. Coe-Flex is one of the most popular types of polysulfide impression materials.


Advantages and Disadvantages of Polysulfide

Below are the most notable advantages of using polysulfide impressions:

  • High tear strength
  • Easy to pour
  • Hydrophilic
  • Good detail reproduction
  • Exceptionally flexible 

Below are the most notable disadvantages of using polysulfide impressions:

  • Unpleasant odor/taste
  • Can be quite messy and uncomfortable for patients
  • Long setting time


Plaster Impression Material

Plaster is a non-elastic impression material, meaning that it has very little elasticity and is quite rigid once it has been set. It can be quite useful for mucostatic impressions. 


Advantages and Disadvantages of Plaster

Below are some of the most notable advantages of using dental plaster:

  • Useful for mucostatic impressions
  • Hydrophilic qualities
  • Provide good details
  • Sturdy models 

Below are some of the most notable disadvantages of using dental plaster:

  • Material is quite brittle
  • The presence of excess saliva and/or blood can hinder detail replication


How to Choose the Right Dental Impression Material

When it comes time to choose the right dental impression material, there are some things to consider:

  • Your specific needs/preferences as the provider
  • The comfort and overall treatment experience of your patient
  • The intended use of the impressions (dentures, crown, and bridge, diagnostic models, orthodontic treatment, etc)
  • Biocompatibility
  • Possible allergic reactions to the material used
  • Price point vs your practice’s budget


Safco Dental Supply: Best Dental Equipment and Supplies Online

With the information you have learned here, you should be well-equipped to choose the best type of dental impression materials for you and your patients.


For high-quality instruments and dental equipment, place your trust in Safco Dental Supply. We provide a wide range of dental products and equipment to fit every need, with free shipping on orders over $250. 


We strive to get you your products as fast as possible. All orders placed before 4:30 pm CST (3:30 pm on Friday) are shipped out same-day.


Give us a call at 800.621.2178 to speak with one of our experts about professional dental hygiene equipment and supplies.

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