Intraoral Scanners—Saving the Earth, One Impression at a Time

Doctors are always looking for ways to save—save teeth, save patients time, save money. What about saving the environment? Without even realizing it, dentistry has a huge impact on the Earth: plastic impression trays pile up in landfills, paper charting can use up to 10,000 pieces of paper a year. The overarching solution is to switch to digital solutions, e.g., digital scanning instead of using impression material, digital charting instead of paper files. Today, in honor of Earth Day, we’ll take a closer look at one such digital solution that can decrease dentistry’s footprint on the environment—intraoral scanning.

Let’s compare some of the aspects of the traditional impression workflow with using an intraoral scanner and how each affects the environment:

Traditional Impression

Environmental Impact

Digital Impression

Environmental Impact

Plastic tray to take impression

Ends up in landfill; 450 years to break down

Few consumables, no trays whatsoever


Polyvinyl siloxane (PVS) impression

Ends up in landfill; never breaks down

Impression is digital, no physical impression


Courier drives to practice to pick up impression

More cars on the road; carbon emissions

Digital impression is sent via secure portal to lab


OR Impression is shipped to lab

Paper, cardboard or styrofoam packaging; fuel used by delivery truck or airplane

Digital impression is sent via secure portal to lab


According to a 2013 Dental Economics article, the average dental practice takes 384 impressions per year—or one a day, give or take. Considering the Kaiser Family Foundation claims there are 180,209 dentists (2019) in the United States alone, and with less than one in five doctors* using a digital impression system, you could imagine how quickly those plastic trays and discarded PVS impressions add up in a landfill.

Instead, consider using an intraoral scanner and adopting a digital impressions workflow. With an intraoral scanner, doctors can cutback many of the consumables associated with traditional impressions, including plastic trays, alginate powder, and PVS materials. This not only keeps these harmful plastics out of landfills but keeps more money in a doctor’s pocket. Since the impressions are digital, there’s no need to waste paper or cardboard on carefully packaging physical impressions or having a courier use a car to pick up the impressions. Instead, digital files are shared with labs and referrals through a secure web portal. This keeps cars off the road and also ensures impressions don’t break or shrink/expand during shipping. Plus, if doctors choose to mill their own restorations in-office, there’s no need to have final restorations shipped or delivered back to the practice.

Digital impressions have numerous benefits to doctors, staff and patients such as less mess, less time and faster turnaround with the lab. This Earth Day, consider the added benefit an intraoral scanner and digital impressions could have on the environment.

*"2015 Technology Census," Dental Product Shopper, Vol 10, No. 2, pages 72-73

>>>Find out more information about the CS 3600 intraoral scanner here.

Carestream Dental Blog Administrator Contributor


This site uses cookies to enhance your browsing experience.  If you close this window and continue browsing, you agree to allow Carestream Dental to collect cookies as outlined in our privacy policy.