Lasting Impressions: Getting a Mold of Your Teeth

Metal mold tray for taking teeth impression

To answer the first question many young patients will ask: no, it does not hurt to have an impression made. It is important to address this as soon as possible to take away any fears that a patient might have around the process.

When are Molds Taken?

Molds are taken twice in the course of the treatment. The first impressions are taken before treatment begins so that the braces can be correctly designed for the best and most effective fit. The second impressions are taken after the braces are removed to accurately fit the retainer.

What Stuff is in the Mold?

There are a few materials used to make impressions of your teeth. Perhaps the most commonly used material is called alginate. It is a powder compound made from seaweed or kelp that is added to water to make something that looks like silly putty. It usually only takes about 60 seconds to harden. So sit tight!

To make the process a little more fun, there are different flavors that can be added to the alginate to make it taste a little better and provide as pleasant an experience as possible.

An alternative material used is called vinyl polysiloxane (VPS). This is a silicone-based material that can take anywhere from 2-5 minutes to set properly. Orthodontists might also use polyethers to create an impression.

How Does it Work?

The impression material is loaded into a plastic tray that looks like a mouth guard. The tray is then placed into your mouth and pressed into place around your teeth and gums, usually on the bottom jaw first. It is held in place until the material used cures (or dries). It is then removed and a mold of your teeth is taken from the “negative” it has created.

Here’s a quick video from BRACES4AQUARIOUSCHIC that shows how the molds are taken.

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Will I Swallow the Material or Choke?

No. Some patients will have a sensitive pharyngeal reflex (or gag reflex as it is more commonly known) that is further forward, so taking the upper mold can be a little less comfortable. If it is a severe gag reflex, your orthodontist can apply a topical analgesic to numb that area and make it more comfortable.

Do I Have to Use the Tray?

There are alternatives to the traditional mold. Some practices now use scanning technology like the 3M True Definition Scanner that uses a small wand to take 3D impressions of each tooth individually. With the wand, there is no need for a tray to be used.

Here’s a quick video of the True definition Scanner at work.

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To get your free initial consultation, call one of Orthodontic Associates’ nine convenient locations around Baltimore to see one of our expert doctors, and find out how we can get you your perfect smile and healthy bite.


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