Stop “Sucking Down” and get Super-duper Thermo-formed Results
The “suck-down” machine has been a mainstay in the labs of dental offices for many years. And, they typically get used a lot. We use thermo-formed materials in our practice in a variety of ways:
- Bleaching trays
- Home fluoride trays
- Custom impression trays
- Stents for provisional restorations
- Athletic guards
- Occlusal guards
- Base-plates for removable pros records
- Orthodontic retainers
Traditional vacuum-formers are relatively inexpensive (about $400 – $500). They work… fairly well. And, “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” Right? Dentists generally don’t like to change how they do things, especially if it might require a higher initial investment. There are a few disadvantages to the traditional “suck down” machine:
- Marginal accuracy (by comparison)
- Must trim models extensively
A couple of years ago, I decide to “splurge” on something better. When I started doing Six Month Smiles, I wanted a faster and better way to make clear retainers. I got Great Lakes Orthodontics Ministar machine. It’s the smaller version of the production lab Biostar. It cost me about $2,000 if I recall correctly. Yes, that’s a lot more than a $400 suck-down machine. But, yes… it’s THAT much better. It really is!
The advantages of the Ministar:
- Superb accuracy, providing excellent fit
- No need to trim models extensively
- Easy to do multiple (laminated) layers (for athletic guards)
- Very quiet!
- Built like a brick $%!#house – will last your entire career and then some
As you’ll see in my video (at bottom of this blog post), there’s a tremendous difference in the heating times between a suck-down and Ministar machine. The suck-down machine took about 3-1/2 minutes to heat the material enough to use. You have to guess when the sheet of material has “drooped” enough to place on the model.
The Ministar’s infra-red heating element takes 1 second… ONE second… to reach working temperature. It heats very evenly. Depending on the type and thickness of material being used, it takes another 30 – 90 seconds to get it ready to press onto the model. All of Great Lakes Ortho materials have the recommended heating times printed on the box.
With the suck-down, it’s up to you to see the material drooping and then pick the right time to drop it on the model. The Ministar uses precise heating times for each material. There’s no guesswork with the built-in timer.
Using air pressure from your practice’s main compressor, the Ministar PUSHES the heated material over and around the model. A suck-down machine depends on suction to adapt the material to the model by PULLING. Of course, suction cannot pass through the stone model, so the material cannot adapt as closely. If there are any overhangs or undercuts, the vacuum machine has trouble adapting it to the model. One trick is to really trim the model down, and it does help with the suck-down.
When you’re using pressure over the top of the model, none of that is an issue. You will be very impressed at the extreme adaptation of pressure-formed materials. This is evident when you try to remove the formed material from the model. And, it will be obvious when you see how it fits the patient’s teeth. The difference is remarkable. You will even see better bleaching results because the bleach tray SEALS around the teeth.
One of the pesky and persistent issues I’ve had with suck-down machines is getting folds in the material extending from the base up towards the teeth. (See photos below.) This can be avoided to some degree with extensive trimming of the models before using the suck-down machine. However it’s not a problem at all with pressure-forming machines like the Ministar.
I don’t believe a traditional suck-down machine has enough accuracy for clear orthodontic retainers. The retainers I make with the Ministar fit very precisely, and I don’t have to worry about orthodontic relapse.
I just looked up the Ministar at the Great Lakes Ortho website. I see they’ve upgraded it to include a bar scanner – to scan the box of the material you’re using and set the heating time. Very cool. The listed price is $2,410. But, they often have sales and specials, sometimes including a package of materials. It still qualifies as a relatively small investment with a substantial and nearly immediate ROI – a big plus for any Dental Warrior. Great Lakes Ortho offers a tremendous array of thermo-forming materials for various techniques. Call them up and ask for a deal! You will not regret getting this outstanding piece of lab equipment. Tell them the Dental Warrior sent you! 🙂
Here’s the video: