How to make impressions of teeth

Written by melissa martinez
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How to make impressions of teeth
A teeth impression done by a dentist. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Teeth impressions are taken professionally by a dentist in order to properly fit dental appliances or to diagnose a dental condition. The dentist can do this in his office or send you home with a kit. If you need a tooth impression for any other reason, you can do impressions of teeth yourself at home, even if you don't have a kit. It only takes a few minutes to do, though it can be messy if you're not used to the materials being used.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Dental alginate
  • Two dental trays
  • Wire whisk
  • Plaster
  • Small paintbrush

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  1. 1

    Mix the alginate with water and a wire whisk according to package instructions. Mix just enough alginate to fill the two dental trays, plus a little extra for testing.

  2. 2

    Fill both trays about 2/3 full with the alginate gel.

  3. 3

    Place one of the trays inside your mouth and firmly press it into the upper teeth. Don't allow your teeth to break though all the alginate and touch the bottom of the tray. If you do, start over as this means your teeth won't be cast properly. The alginate should surround the teeth and gums.

  4. 4

    Repeat step 3 for the bottom teeth, using the other dental tray.

  5. 5

    Lean forward over a sink in case any saliva or gel leaks; this way it will spill out instead of down your throat, which could cause coughing or choking. It could also cause your mouth or teeth to move, ruining the impression before it's done.

  6. 6

    Check the texture of the excess alginate you didn't use. Once the alginate starts firming up, that means the gel inside your mouth has firmed up, too. Wait 1-2 minutes, then follow step 7.

  7. 7

    Try removing one of the trays by wiggling it gently. The tray should release rather easily. If not, continue to wiggle it gently until it finally comes out. Repeat the process with the other dental tray.

  8. 8

    Use the small paintbrush to fill the tooth impression with plaster. Allow the plaster to dry completely according to the package directions.

  9. 9

    Remove the new plaster mould from the alginate mould. Discard the alginate mould, which will continue to harden and change shape, rendering it useless after a few hours. The plaster mould will be the permanent tooth impression. At this point, you're done unless you want to alter the plaster mould for something else such as constructing fangs or costume teeth for actors.

Tips and warnings

  • Never use the plaster directly on the teeth instead of the alginate. Plaster hardens and if it hardens around the teeth, it can damage, chip or outright break the teeth. Always use the soft alginate gel, then plaster. It may take longer, but you won't damage your teeth this way.

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