CAD/CAM Dentistry (Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing in Dentistry) is an advanced area of dentistry that uses computer technology to help design and manufacture different types of dental restorations. Many dentists now utilize this type of dentistry to produce accurate crowns, veneers, inlays/onlays, bridges, dental implant restorations and orthodontic appliances.
The benefit of CAD/CAM technology is that it allows the practitioner the ability to produce esthetic, well-fitting prosthetic dental restorations on-site in a matter of hours. The convenience of chairside CAD/CAM restoration differs from conventional dentistry in that the restoration can be placed in the same day, whereas conventional or dated techniques required temporaries to be placed for several weeks while an off-site dental laboratory produced the prosthesis.
The CAD/CAM technology is available for both dentists and dental labs, allowing qualified technicians the ability to design the restorations on a computer screen. The program will display a 3-D image of the prepared tooth or teeth that is obtained by a digital image. The program then sends the data to a milling chamber where the dental restoration is then carved out of a solid block of composite resin or porcelain. The dentist will then check the restoration for size and fit and can then apply it to the damaged tooth. The CAD/CAM technology allows the dentist to restore a tooth in as little as an hour, as opposed to several weeks using traditional methods.
Because CAD/CAM dentistry can usually be done in-office, there is no need for multiple visits. The restoration may be done in a single appointment, and negates the need for temporaries. An all-ceramic bridge is an exception to this rule, and can take a second office visit as the bridge needs to be created in a laboratory. If this is the case, then a temporary restoration would be necessary.
Studies have also shown that CAD/CAM restorations are stronger than those milled from more traditional materials and are therefore less likely to fracture. The dental technologies available for restorations can be used to make crowns, veneers, inlays/onlays, and bridges.
CEREC (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics) by Sirona Dental, is a dental restoration technology that includes CAD/CAM and 3-D technologies. The materials that CEREC uses to match your natural tooth structure are similar in composition and color to your original teeth. This is beneficial not only for esthetic reasons but also because when hot food or cold drinks are consumed the restoration and tooth expand and contract at almost equal rates. Additionally, the materials are chemically bonded to your tooth, so the dentist can save as much healthy tooth tissue as possible while providing you with a dental restoration that strengthens your tooth.
The restoration process with the CEREC device begins with a photograph and stores the image as a 3-D model. Their proprietary software is then used to approximate the restoration shape using bigeneric comparisons to surrounding teeth. The dentist then refines that model using the 3-D CAD software. Once the design is complete, the data is sent to the milling unit which manufactures the actual restoration from a solid block of solid ceramic or composite block. The dentist then bonds the restoration to the tooth using resin cement which bonds to both the tooth and the restoration for a look and fit that is natural and durable.