Taking Impressions After Restorative Dental Hygiene Training

A young woman having her impression taken by a dental assistant after restorative dental hygiene training

Taking dental impressions is one of the most fundamental skills you’ll acquire during restorative dental hygiene training. This is important as taking dental impressions will probably be one of your most regular duties throughout your career. A dental impression is a snapshot of the patient’s dental anatomy and is instrumental in various treatments, from crowns and bridges to dentures and orthodontic appliances.

Capturing an accurate impression is vital, as even a tiny error can lead to complications in the final restoration. Unfortunately, inaccurate dental impressions always necessitate a retake, which can be a hassle for everyone involved. While mastering the art of taking dental impressions requires practice, taking note of and implementing a few tips can help you refine your technique. As you embark on your new career, here are three essential tips to perfect the art of impression-taking.

1. Keep the Tooth and Surrounding Area Clean

Before taking an impression, the tooth and the surrounding gum area must be entirely free of debris, saliva, and blood. A clean environment ensures that the impression material can capture every minute detail of the tooth without interference. 

One effective method is using cotton rolls or a saliva ejector to keep the area dry, a technique emphasized in restorative dental hygiene training. This is important because saliva can interfere with the setting of some impression materials and prevent an accurate capture of the tooth’s details. The final impression can be compromised if there’s residual plaque or debris on the tooth. It’s essential to use brushes and dental tools to ensure the tooth’s surface is spotless. Furthermore, tissue management is a vital aspect to consider.

A dental assistant preparing dental mold after dental hygienist training
As learned in dental hygienist training, a clean mouth is vital when taking dental impressions.

Any bleeding in the area can mix with the impression material and compromise its accuracy. If there’s bleeding, it needs to be addressed before proceeding. Tools like retraction cords or astringents can be used for better tissue management, ensuring the impression is as precise as possible.

2. Choose the Right Impression Material and Tray

The choice of material and tray plays a significant role in the quality of impressions. Using the wrong type can result in distortions, tearing, or voids. Among the variety of impression materials available, alginate, polyether, and silicone-based materials are some of the most common. Each material has its advantages and is suitable for different situations. Therefore, it’s crucial to be familiar with the properties of each material and choose the one best suited for the specific case at hand.

A dental assistant interacting with a patient after dental hygienist training
The right material for impressions is also crucial, as is emphasized in dental hygienist training.

Alongside the choice of material, selecting the right tray is equally essential. There are primarily two types of trays: custom and stock. Stock trays are pre-made and come in various sizes, while custom trays are designed for individual patients. If one opts for stock trays, it’s vital to ensure it fit the patient’s mouth comfortably. It shouldn’t be too tight or loose, as inaccurate tray selection can lead to distortion in the final impression.

3. Minimizing The Patient’s Gag Reflex is Emphasized During Dental Hygiene Training

Minimizing a patient’s gag reflex during dental procedures is crucial for ensuring their comfort and cooperation. For patients prone to a heightened gag reflex, utilizing the least amount of material is advisable, ensuring that all essential details are still captured. Position the patient so they are sitting upright with a slight forward lean. Encourage the patient to focus on taking deep, steady breaths through their nose. 

As you’ve learned in dental hygienist training, distracting the patient is highly effective. One method involves asking the patient to alternately lift and lower a foot off the chair, diverting their attention from the potential urge to gag. Additionally, desensitizing sprays or gels on the palate or the back of the tongue can help suppress the reflex. Prioritizing the patient’s comfort and ensuring open communication about their feelings can significantly reduce the likelihood of a gag episode during dental procedures.

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