No-mess dental impressions

January 6, 2008 1:19:20 PM PST
The days of the yukky dental impression are coming to an end

Most of us have come to terms with getting our teeth cleaned....

But most people have a hard time tolerating getting impressions taken for more complex work.

Dr. Gary Henkel recalls, "We had to put a mucky-like material in the mouth, wait a period of time, generally close to 5 minutes, it had to stay in place."

This WAS a scene repeated 50 million times a year across the country.

But you won't see it anymore in the office of Dr. Gary Henkel, in Horsham, Pennsylvania

Dr. Henkel is now using technology called iTero - to electronically record what that gooey material used to -

With a handheld wand, he scans the area where the crown or bridge will go.

It gives a gentle beep as it works, "Each scan is about a third of a second."

The process takes 4 to 5 minutes overall.

And it can be interrupted and re-started for the patient's comfort.

When the scan is complete, iTero says so, "The case is ready for viewing."

Dr. Henkel can examine the scan, turning it in all directions in the computer. He can also re-do it if it's not satisfactory.

Once he's satisfied. iTero is hooked up to a wireless internet connection.

Dr. Henkel says, "It's transmitted to the company's headquarters in Carlstadt, New Jersey. There it's received, and undergoes a lot more processing."

There, a machine carves out a near-perfect model for the new implant.

Dr. Henkel took part in a study comparing iTero-designed implants to those made the usual way.

Two-thirds of the time, the iTero-made versions were the better fit - needing little or no adjustment before going into a patient's mouth.

Martin Fuchs, of Willow Grove, says the process was a breeze, and the tooth fit perfectly.

With a broad smile, he says, "It feels brand new. And no discomfort. I'm ready to go get a cheesesteak."