We all want to look and feel our very best. And, other than our twice-yearly check-ups and cleanings, most of us want to avoid the dentist's office as much as possible. That's human nature.
But, unfortunately, accidents do happen, necessitating an unexpected trip to our family dentist. It always starts out innocently enough. It's Saturday morning and, prior to leaving to have brunch with your friends, you find yourself in the backyard, helping your daughter out with her soccer moves. Everything is moving along, quite nicely, until a soccer ball flies straight into your mouth ,out of nowhere.
So, instead of checking out that brand new cafe that everybody is talking about; you find yourself reclining in the examination room, while your dentist finishes cleaning up the area around your badly chipped tooth.
" There's just too much damage to your tooth. I can't leave it as is." gently explains your dentist. We're going to have to put a crown in. Once I do that, your brand new restoration will fit right in with your other teeth. No one will be able to tell the difference."
Exhaling, you feel somewhat relieved. The cost of the procedure and the restoration should be covered by your insurance plan at work, so there's no cause for concern there.
But, what does worry you is the time factor involved. The traditional process of having any kind of dental restoration work done can be extremely time-consuming. And, you don't have enough hours in the day to start with.
Also; let's be honest. You're not the best dental patient . Going to the dentist is one of your least favorite things to do.
However, when you express your anxieties to your dentist, she smiles reassuringly and says...."I have an option that I think might be of interest to you. There's a technology out there called cad/cam dentistry. It involves using a computer to design and manufacture restorations.".
Things only get better when your dentist says that, in the majority of cases, cad/cam technology can reduce the restoration process from possibly four or five visits to just one or two appointments.
Now that's big-time convenience. Yes, cad/cam dentistry is a game-changer, especially for busy men and women.
When you see this amazing technology, first-hand, you'll think that your dentist borrowed some equipment from one of those hi-tech labs that are usually found only on TV detective shows.
Cad/cam dentistry is science taken to a whole other level, indeed.
Making use of an optical scanner, this ground-breaking technology actually captures true to life 3-D images of your tooth in order to design and manufacture a restoration. It might just look even better than your original tooth !
Cad/cam, by the way is an acronym that tells us a great deal in just a few simple words. CAD stands for computer assisted design while CAM is short for computer-aided manufacture.
Cad/cam has come a long way since it was first introduced way back in the 1980's. At the time, this very special technology was in its' infancy and was utilized mostly by dental labs. Use in your typical neighborhood dentist's office was practically non-existent.
Times, though, have changed and for the better. The Cerec by Siemens cad/cam chair side camera, as well as improved software, has made this time-saving technology more practical and accessible.
If you are in need of just about any form of dental restoration, it's Cad/cam to the rescue!
Dentists use it to design and produce crowns, veneers, implants, inlays, onlays and fixed bridges as well as dentures.
Most of these restorations are made from solid blocks of ceramic or composite resin. Subtractive processes like CNC milling and additive processes such as 3-D printing are used to create state of the art restorations and orthodontic appliances. Great care is taken to match the shade of your tooth so, aesthetically, no one will be able to tell the new restoration apart from your other teeth.
By now, you're probably wondering just what a typical cad/cam appointment is like. So, without further delay, let us take you through the process.
When you arrive, the office hygienist will get you comfortably situated in the chair. Once you are settled in, your dentist will carefully examine the broken or cracked tooth and then clean the are of any plaque build-up. He will then administer a shot of local anesthetic to numb the area.
If the tooth is severely damaged, there might be some drilling involved, so that the tooth or what's left of it can be prepared to receive the restoration.
Once all that has been done, cad/cam comes into the picture, quite literally. Instead of the messy and nauseating old fashioned method of having the patient bite down into a gooey putty like substance to take an impression, the cad/cam chair side camera will snap a photo ( scan).
Your teeth will be sprinkled with a light dusting of reflective powder and you will be asked to smile for the camera. A scanning wand, attached to the cad/cam is the device that actually takes the image. A few minutes and you're done. That's as easy as can be. The photo of your problem tooth ( or teeth), is sent directly to another computer right inside the dentist's office.These high resolution pictures will also let your dentist know if your tooth has been accurately prepared to receive the restoration.
Steps one and two were a piece of cake. Now, let's move on to step three. A software package will now actually design a virtual crown, veneer or any other type of restoration. The 3-D imagery is realistic beyond belief.
And now, we're on to step 4. Upon completion of the design process, the software will send the data to a milling machine. It is here that your restoration will be " carved" out of composite resin or ceramic.
Once your restoration, in a fairly basic form, has been removed from the milling chamber, your inlay or crown will be customized with various stains and glazes applied to the fabrication. This part of the process " refines" your brand new" tooth", making it appear as natural as possible.
In the early days of cad/cam dentistry, this portion of the process was somewhat of a problem. In terms of appearance, a machine-fabricated tooth left something to be desired. But, thanks to improvements over time, the finished product is more translucent and natural-looking. Different shades of color can also be applied to the restoration by your dentist, if needed.
After the crown, for example, has been polished, your dentist will examine same to be sure that it is patient-ready. He will then place the restoration in your mouth, meticulously adjusting it for a perfect fit. After that, the restoration will be bonded or cemented onto your teeth.
Cad/cam restorations can be done in a single office visit. But, please keep in mind that your appointment will be a rather lengthy one. There's a lot of work that has to be done. Also, the fee will be higher for this type of treatment. The dentist is devoting a large portion of his day to the project and you are paying for the convenience factor, as well.
Many dental professionals, though, opt for two visits for a restoration . Some dentists prefer to make the crown or inlay when the patient is not on the premises. They feel more comfortable working on the restoration during time that they have specifically set aside for such tasks.
Sometimes, the cad/cam designs and images will be sent to a trusted dental lab, who your dentist regularly works with. In that case, you will be fitted with a temporary crown which you can wear during the week or so that it will take for the lab to finish your brand new tooth.
Cad/cam restorations are stronger, more durable and have a longer shelf life than ever before. But not all dentists avail themselves of this technology. Nor is cad/cam right for every type of restoration.
As always, when considering any type of treatment or procedure, it is best to have a thorough conversation with your dentist or medical professional.
Once that you are sure that Cad/cam is right for you, then get started and get ready to enjoy your beautiful new you!