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The Importance of Dental Molds: A Guide to Oral Health
by Dylan Hao |
At some point in our lives, most of us will have to deal with concerns like crowns, bridges, veneers, braces, or bruxism (the official term for teeth grinding and clenching).
When that happens to you, the first official step in fixing the problem is to have a mold, or a dental impression, made.
What is a dental mold?
In short, it’s a mold for teeth that helps a dental professional design a fix that fits your unique mouth shape. But there are various types of molds used to create a teeth impression.
In this blog, we’ll explain the importance of these dental innovations, how they’ve changed over time, and what you can expect when you need one.
Types of Teeth Molds
Although evidence of the field of dentistry dates back thousands of years to the Indus Valley Civilization in 7000 B.C., dental molds are relatively new.
We’ve used a version of them for centuries; over time, they’ve evolved into the high-tech ones available today.
The first impressions in the 1700s used beeswax to make a reverse, or negative, imprint to create a stone cast. This was a complicated and mistake-laden method.
By the 20th century, scientists brought us breakthroughs in plastic — specifically, thermoplastics. Along with advances in manufacturing, it became easier to make impression trays with alginate than silicone-based materials. These mouth trays could capture surface detail more accurately than their ancestors.
Today’s trays continue to use 20th-century innovations but with better accuracy, stability, strength, comfort, taste, and other factors. We even have digital impressions created using intraoral scanners, using 3D geometry to capture all the facets of the surfaces along the upper and lower teeth.
Common Types of Dental Molds Today
The “plastic revolution” of the 20th century has led to three commonly used materials preferred by dentists and dental labs today:
- Polyethylene (PE)
- Vinyl polysiloxane (VPS)
- PVES, a hybrid of PE and VPS
Each has advantages and disadvantages, but they’re all moldable, safe, and reliable.
The type of material chosen depends on the dentist’s preferences and whether the impression will be used for dentures, bridges, crowns, partials, night guards, or other appliances.
In the 1900s, manufacturers saw the potential behind dental molds made from plastics, but controlling the moisture in these impressions wasn’t easy.
Polyethylene, a material in the plastics family, solved this issue, allowing for detailed molds that weren’t distracted by fluids.
Since PE molds have incredible attention to detail, reproducing lines that are slimmer than human hair, this became a massive advancement in the field of impressions.
Both materials are:
- Free from gluten, BPA, phthalate, latex, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, and MMA
- Durable enough to last through all but the most severe teeth grinding (For that, we’ll use more grind-resistant materials like acrylic.)
The polyethylene family of plastics is ideal for night guards, crowns, and tooth concerns that require rigidity and flexibility.
Commonly referred to as VPS, vinyl polysiloxane came out after PEs, around the 1970s. VPS materials are made from ingredients that create a chemical
reaction, unlike other silicone-based materials that enhance the product’s stability.
Adding a protectant helps the VPS stay safe from moisture. Detailed impressions and a strong rigidity, combined with being odorless and tasteless, make VPS preferred for many dental mold selections.
PVES (polyvinyl ether silicone) materials use a combination of PE and VPS to provide the benefits of both with fewer disadvantages. You get the stability, resistance, and flexibility of VPS with the wettability of PE.
However, this material is relatively new in dentistry, and so far, it remains similar to VPS and PE, rather than “better than.” PVES gives dentists and lab professionals three solid materials to choose from as they design their dental mold kits.
What a Dental Mold Kit Looks Like
Whether you order a dental mold kit to use at home or your dentist makes your impression at the office, the tools will look similar.
To make a copy of your teeth, you’ll need some form of plaster to create the dental cast. Picture a ball of Play-Doh, but without the nasty taste and with food-grade ingredients (ignoring what you may have eaten as a kid). The malleable plaster is adjusted so that it spreads across a tray as it sits in your mouth.
When you bite down on the tray, the teeth leave impressions in the plaster, providing a 3D copy of your teeth and gums. This copy is then sealed in a container or plastic bag, where it can set without anything affecting it.
What Makes a Good Dental Mold Kit Stand Out
Although the materials used by reputable manufacturers are typically durable and fast-setting, there are a few factors that make dental mold kits stand out from each other.
Since your teeth are full of edges and fine lines, plasters that can capture those details are preferable. However, the material used to make the impression needs to be the perfect balance of moldable and quick-setting.
Our kits use the latest technology — no Play-Doh involved — to ensure a detailed impression is made before you return your mold. We even check it for you when you send us a picture of the impression by text, email, or on our app!
Once the kit sets, our lab pours material into the impression, forming a cast. The impression materials, like polyethylene, are then used to create the oral appliance.
DIY Molds Versus Professional Molds
Because of the expense and hassle of going to the dentist’s office for a mold, at-home DIY kits have skyrocketed in popularity.
Technology and professional labs like ours at JS Dental Lab allow you to make and receive your oral appliance without walking past your mailbox.
The key is to choose legitimate, reputable manufacturers who use professional-grade materials alongside excellent customer service. That way, if you have any questions, you can get help during any step of the process.
General Steps for a DIY Impression Kit
Regardless of where you get your kit, always follow the instructions. A common mistake is to read one step at a time, but creating a dental mold is a time-sensitive process. Be sure you read all the instructions before taking any action steps.
Brush and Rinse
Whether you’re making an upper or lower impression, start by brushing your teeth and rinsing thoroughly. This eliminates any debris that could compromise the details in the mold.
Select the Correct Size Tray
Then use the trays provided to find the size that best fits your mouth. You don’t want the fit to be perfect or tight. It’s better to use the tray that is slightly too big so that there’s room for the putty to do its thing.
Mix the Mold
When you’ve decided which tray is not too big, not too small, but just right, it’s time to mix the Play-Doh-like substance that came with the kit. With our JS Dental Lab night guard kits, these are two purple and white balls.
Pull out your childhood muscle movements and roll the putty in your (clean) hands. Mix the two colors together, kneading them firmly into a worm-like pattern until no purple is showing; it should all be one consistent color.
Next, place the newly rounded material in the tray as evenly as possible across the openings.
Make Your Impression
Follow the directions that came with the kit, placing the tray in your mouth and holding it tightly to keep it from moving for the instructed time. For upper teeth, it should cover up through the last molar. Bottom teeth should also all be covered.
When the time is up, pull down (for upper) or up (for lower) and gently slide the tray out of your mouth. If necessary, take a picture to submit for approval, and then place it in the baggie or container provided to return to us.
Read more: How It Works
When Professional Molds Are Necessary
DIY kits are ideal for night guards used to reduce general teeth grinding or for teeth whitening purposes. They’re also suitable for basic mouth guards to prevent injury during sports.
But sometimes, a professional mold is necessary, such as during:
- Dental restorations
When your issue is of a medical nature, you’re better off going straight to your doctor for the best care.
For instance, if you need your teeth shifted, a specialist is necessary to walk you through the process of using braces.
The orthodontist will monitor the movements as they occur, adjust the treatment as necessary, and provide you with a retainer when the braces are removed.
Dental Crowns and Implants
Impressions are also necessary for dental crowns and implants, which must be done in the dentist’s office. Applying a crown or implant is a surgical procedure; the dental impression kit they use is specifically designed for that purpose.
If you’ve had a tooth pulled, a different type of kit is used to create a temporary tooth while you’re waiting for your implant.
And, of course, if you need dentures, you don’t want to go it alone, either. You could end up with false teeth that don’t fit in your mouth, are completely uncomfortable, or look fake.
When it comes to replacing your real choppers with copies, you want the new ones to look like authentic human teeth. Those denture teeth should be high-quality and designed especially for your unique mouth shape.
Making an impression mold of your teeth is more common than not these days as a fix for oral health issues, and it’s nothing to be afraid of.
Technology has come a long way in thousands of years. Now, we have professional, in-office fixes for upper and lower teeth or a kit with everything you need for an at-home night guard.
Whatever your oral health problem, a dental mold could be part of the solution. At JS Dental Lab, we make this easy, providing teeth whitening care and night guards to reduce your grinding symptoms through the mail.
Contact us today to see how we can help make your dental woes disappear.