Dental Alginate Metamorphosized for Life Casting

Alginate has come a long way from chance beginnings for dental impressions to body molds for life casting. The alginate has to be modified to suit its new application which makes it more versatile as well.

It literally took a world war for alginate to be used as a dental impression material and, ultimately make its way into the world of life casting!

It was during World War II when agar could no longer be sourced from Japan, that the U.S. Navy first started using alginate for dental impressions. Soon regular dentists also started shifting to this natural seaweed material.

History does not record the name of the first artist who started using the same alginate for making body molds for life casting. But it is very much possible that some dentist was hit with a brainwave that the same gooey material that he/she was using on a patient’s teeth can work for taking impressions from the rest of the body as well. A trial or two may have revealed that the alginate captures excellent forensic details, right down to the fingerprints.

The modifications in alginate

Making a mold of a couple of teeth is a quick and simple job. But can the same be extended to bigger and more complicated parts of the body?For starters. regular alginate will set up too quickly to be workable.

But it is not just about tweaking the set time alone. Even the hardness/softness of the cured alginate has to be ideal to deliver the requisite tear resistance. For instance, alginate that is too soft will obviously tend to tear easily, especially when the structure is too thin. Contrarily, if it sets too hard, the strength will actually make it inflexible. The body mold will not come off easily and is most likely to tear when pulled from tight places. Therefore, the alginate formula has to be manipulated to make it strong, but without becoming too hard!

While it is mostly dental firms that manufacture the modified alginate as an extension of their regular product range, EnvironMolds provides a range of specialized alginate formulas – like MoldGel alginate, LifeMold Silica Free Alginate and Hollywood Impressions SILFREE alginate that have been specially formulated for life casting needs.

For instance, the MoldGel Alginate SloSet features an extended set time of 7 to 8 minutes. Additionally, liquid retarders are also available that can be mixed in the alginate to further slow down the set time. This features good tear strength as well. If needed, fiber can be embedded in this alginate to further enhance the tear strength before reinforcing the body mold with plaster bandages. A better option is to use FiberGel E F/X Grade Alginate that features a fiber matrix which not only adds tear resistance and strength, but also allows for delayed casting times and reduces the shrinkage rate. What more can one ask for?

Do check out the complete range of alginate options and other materials available at