What are Dental Casts?
Dental casts are accurate, three-dimensional replicas of a patient’s teeth which are made by pouring dental plaster or acrylic into impressions (imprints, or molds) of the teeth, and allowing it to harden. Dental casts can be created from many types of dental stone, metal or plastic, depending on the intended use and the durability requirements of the cast.
Dental casts are created whenever the dentist needs to study the size and relationship between the teeth, gums and dental arches. This is the case whenever the dentist is studying a patient’s growth and development, or when significant dental treatment is being contemplated. They are used to make crowns, fixed bridges and dentures. Dental casts are also made when the patient needs an athletic mouthguard, an orthodontic retainer, or fluoride/ tooth whitening trays. If the dentist wishes to communicate with a laboratory about a patient’s teeth, dental casts will be made. They are also a great tool for recording treatment progress.
The process of creating a dental cast
Generally, a dental assistant will measure the size of your mouth to determine how large an impression tray to use. The tray is what holds the impression material in place around the teeth while it is solidifying in the mouth. Lip balm will often be applied to your lips to keep the sticky impression material from adhering to dry skin surfaces. If you have fixed bridgework, it is a good idea to remind the dental assistant, so that the impression material will not flow under it, set up, and be locked into place in the mouth. Next, the impression material will be mixed and poured into the tray. The tray is inserted into the mouth, and gently pressed over the teeth and gums so that the flowable impression material will extrude into undercuts, pits, and other details of the tooth and gum tissue.
Depending on which type of material is being used to make the impression, the tray will be left in your mouth for one to several minutes. It is then removed in a quick snapping motion. Any residual material that is left in your mouth can be rinsed away. The impression is then taken to the laboratory, where it can be poured with a variety different materials to produce accurate replicas of your teeth and gums. It can also be silver plated to produce metal-surfaced replicas that are durable.
Some advantages and benefits of dental casts
- Accurately reproduce the teeth, gums, and relationships between the upper and lower dental arches.
- Provide an inside-the-mouth view of how the teeth fit together that wouldn’t be achievable without sophisticated computer imaging hardware.
- Allow many different types of dental restorations (e.g. crowns, inlays, etc.), retainers, mouthguards, and trays to be made with great accuracy.
- Establish a point of reference to which future changes can be compared if needed.
Potential disadvantages and risks of dental casts
A small number of people don not tolerate impressions very well due to sensitive gag reflex. Your dentist may be able to offer a number of suggestions to overcome a sensitive gag reflex.
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