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Before a dentist begins certain dental procedures, they must take an impression of the patient's mouth to determine how the arches fit together. They may also examine the size and relationship between the gums and teeth prior to taking any action. 

Dental impressions have various applications, and these include the following: 

  • Sleep apnea oral appliances
  • Nightguards
  • Retainers
  • Crowns, bridges, or implants
  • Porcelain veneers and clear aligners
  • Teeth whitening trays

There are three main types of dental impressions, and these are as follows: 

  1. Preliminary impressions: Whether it's for diagnostic purposes or the fabrication of different prostheses, preliminary impressions provide dentists with a visual aid to help them plan the patient's treatment. 
  2. Final impressions: When a dentist takes a final impression, they will send it to the laboratory for the technician to create crowns, bridges, or dentures, among other dental prosthetics.

Bite registration: A dental professional may request a bite registration from the patient to determine how the upper and lower teeth fit.

Depending on the type of dental impression, the entire process can take anywhere between five to 15 minutes. 

Traditional methods include filling up the trays with a special material before placing them in the patient's mouth to leave an imprint. The putty can take up to five minutes to set and requires a technician to pour stone into the mold to create a cast.

On the other hand, some dental offices have equipment to take digital dental impressions. A dentist may trace the structure of the patient's teeth with a special wand that snaps thousands of pictures before using software to stitch them together.

While the digital impression procedure does not require putty, it can take about the same time as other traditional methods. 

Typically, when a dentist creates a mold of a person's mouth, they'll throw it away after using it. 

However, in some cases, a dental professional may store the cast and return to it occasionally to compare the patient's progress after their restorative treatments.

Dental impressions are typically safe for children and adults without any major side effects or risks. 

However, some might find that the special putty used to create the mold during the procedure can trigger a gag reflex, making the entire process uncomfortable. 

In such situations, the dentist must work with the patient to minimize this unpleasant experience. 

Another thing to remember is that the special putty may cause loose teeth to fall out. While this is a rare occurrence, it's essential for the dentist to consider such situations and take corrective measures to ensure the patient's oral health. 

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