In almost every field, technology is being harnessed to make our lives more convenient and enjoyable. Dentistry is no different.
One of the most exciting trends in dentistry today is the use of computer-aided design and manufacturing, or CAD/CAM, which has made the process of getting crowns and other dental restoration faster and more pleasant.
Traditionally, being fitted for a crown required at least two visits: One visit to shape the tooth and take impressions and a second visit a few weeks later to have the crown cemented into place. The reason for the long wait between the two steps was that the impression had to be sent to a dental laboratory where the crown was fabricated.
The advent of machines such as Cerec’s OmniCam has completely changed the process. What used to take two uncomfortable visits over several weeks can now be accomplished in one visit that requires about two hours. Instead of having to take two days off of work, make two babysitting arrangements and receive two anesthetic injections, patients can now get the entire process done in one easy visit.
As many of know, having a crown made used to require the dentist to take impressions using a goopy paste that patients dislike. Using a Cerec machine, dentists can now simply wave a highly sophisticated digital imaging camera over the tooth to precisely capture measurement data. Using this data, the crown is designed by the dentist using the Cerec software. Every aspect of the crown is carefully planned, designed and reviewed prior to being created.
The design is completely controlled by the dentist, instead of a technician at a far-off lab. While lab technicians do terrific jobs fabricating crowns, the dentist who just finished preparing the tooth a few minutes ago has more intimate knowledge of your mouth and areas surrounding the prepared tooth.
After the crown has been designed, ceramic blocks are placed inside the Cerec milling unit, and the block is precisely milled under water cooling and lubrication so that the outside as well as inside of the crown is milled according to the design dimensions. Next, the crown is stained and glazed to add additional color, making it look like your natural teeth. Finally, a Cerec glazing oven is used to harden the milled crown. The entire process usually takes less than 30 minutes, and patients will typically read a magazine or play on their phones during the process.
The new crown is cemented into place. In the past, this process required two different numbing shots. During the first visit, the area receiving the crown was numbed to shape the existing tooth down, and a temporary crown was applied. Then, in the second visit, the area was numbed again to remove the temporary crown and install the permanent crown.
In addition to eliminating the need for two separate visits and two numbing shots, the new process has eliminated the need for temporary crowns. Even well-crafted temporary crowns are sometimes uncomfortable or fall out.
The Cerec can be used for more than just single crowns. Bridges, implant crowns and veneers can all be made in the dental office, and the imaging data can be emailed to labs anywhere in the world to have bite guards or orthodontic trays fabricated.
My office purchased a Cerec a few years ago, and since then we have provided hundreds of patients with new crowns and other dental restorations in one easy visit. I typically will use the Cerec to make all my crowns for back teeth, but I will have crowns for anterior (front) teeth made at dental labs that specialize in cosmetic dentistry.
In my opinion, computer systems still cannot replace the artistry required for cosmetic crowns and veneers.
Jay Rodgers, DDS is the owner of Northbrook Dental Care LLC in Northbrook, Illinois. The advice contained in this article is for informational purposes only. Readers should consult with a dentist to evaluate any dental issues. To contact Dr. Rodgers, call 847-205-9337 or view his web site at: www.northbrookdentalcare.com.