Retainers and Digital Workflow

Now we all know that we can’t yet print retainers directly because there is not yet a material that meets our requirements of strength, durability, flexibility and biocompatibility.

So why adopt a digital workflow for producing them?

Is it not just a case of using technology for the sake of it and the retainer could be made quicker and cheaper using conventional lab techniques?

Here at Wired we might agree with that.

BUT, will using technology allow us to make a better retainer? Better accuracy of fit, more consistent retention, more cost effective?

We think so.

When working on retainers in the lab we have traditionally cast alginate impressions and blocked out obvious undercuts and pockets by eye, so each technician is going to block out undercuts differently. The massive increase in adult ortho cases this has made the task even more complex, gum recession, black triangles edentulous spaces all need to be considered, sometimes even to the point of having to think about surveying the model to make sure undercuts are eliminated.

So what can we do with digital software that can help us?

* stl files – send us an stl file, therefore removing any inaccuracies in the impression stage.

* silicone imp – if you don’t have an IOS, send us a silicone impression and we can scan it, removing inaccuracy in casting procedure (sorry, we can’t scan alginate).

* undercuts – once in the software, we can set a path of insertion and block out all undercuts. Now we all know from partial dentures specifically, if we block out all undercuts we have no retention, so in the software we can alter the amount of residual undercut we want, we can even then just digitally remove a bit more of the virtual blocking out in certain areas to give us even more retention, say around the molars.

* surgery time – the stages above will all improve the accuracy of fit and as a lab we can store your preferences for retention making sure you have a consistent product to your requirements and as we have eliminated some of the inaccuracies of the process, we are confident that we are saving both your clinical time and our lab time doing remakes.

* replacements – once we have that data stored on our system, if a patient losses a retainer there is no need to bring them back in for an new imp, we can simply print a new model and make a replacement retainer.

Digitally produced retainers = Better retainers

yes – improved accuracy.

yes – improved consistency.

yes – more cost effective and convenient.